As we often say here at, climate change is a global problem — a civilizational issue that will require unprecedented international collaboration to solve. Solutions are going to need to come from the ground up as well as from the top down, from every country around the world. And yet international leaders are dragging their feet: Countries like the US and Australia say that without China and India on board, they won’t reduce their emissions; China and India say that without industrialized nations taking responsibility for their own greenhouse gas emissions that have created the problem, they won’t decrease their own emissions significantly.

For the past few years, it has seemed a deadlock, a wall that climate and justice organizers and concerned citizens around the world have been trying to chip away at (but mostly just banging our heads against). But recently, a few cracks have developed in the wall.

A few weeks ago, in Accra, Ghana, UN negotiators hammered out some of the details of how to preserve tropical forests, which are mostly located in developing countries — deforestation of these areas contributes up to 20% of the excess greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, because trees are the lungs of the planet.

Earlier this summer, South Africa’s environment and energy minister, in the face of an impending energy crunch, committed that country to a “Greenhouse Gas emissions peak, plateau and decline. This means [emissions] must stop growing at the latest by 2020-2025, stabilise for up to ten years and then decline in absolute terms.” It was the first statement of its kind by a developing country — and a coal-powered one at that.

And just yesterday, a chief policy adviser to the Chinese government, Hu Angang released a statement calling on China to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2030 and halve them by 2050. “It’s in China’s own interest to accept greenhouse gas emissions goals, not just in the international interest,” he said to Reuters news service, because shifting to a new, green economy makes for more prosperous, healthy communities.

This latest statement from a top Chinese policy adviser shows that leaders are moving towards an agreement — but it’s up to us to put pressure on our elected leaders (and leaders-elect) to make sure it’s not empty talk. We need to pry those cracks in the wall open. If China and South Africa recognize the urgency and the scale of the problem are willing to take action, then we should make sure the rest of the world’s leaders, especially the next US President, commit to cutting greenhouse gases.

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