Abstract: The Paris Agreement would not have come into being had China, the United States (US), and the European Union (EU), which together contribute more than half of all global greenhouse gas emissions, not signaled their intent to take major steps to reduce their domestic emissions. The EU has been at the forefront of global climate change measures for years having issued binding domestic emission reduction targets for 2020 and 2030. For many years, China refused to announce a target date for when it might begin reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, and the US Congress blocked action on climate change. In the lead up to the Paris climate negotiations, however, there were major shifts in China’s and the US’s climate positions. This commentary examines the climate policies of the three largest emitters and the factors motivating the positions they took in the Paris negotiations. Given that the commitments made in Paris are most likely insufficient to keep global temperature from rising 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, the commentary also considers what the likelihood is that these three major economies will strengthen their emission reduction targets in the near future.
Keywords: China; climate change; European Union; leadership; Paris; United States