This week, the United States and China shocked the world with a joint announcement pledging to address greenhouse gas emissions. The plan has been touted as “historic” by Administration leaders, but critics say that the end game of this plan is less about controlling climate change, and more about creating a favorable political environment.

From CBS News:

Mr. Obama announced that the U.S. would move much faster in cutting pollution, with a goal to reduce emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. Earlier in his presidency, he set a goal to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

Xi, whose country’s emissions are still growing as it builds new coal plants, didn’t commit to cut emissions by a specific amount. Rather, he set a target for China’s emissions to peak by 2030, or earlier if possible. He also pledged to increase the share of energy that China will derive from sources other than fossil fuels.

Together, the U.S. and China create more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Anyone who has paid attention to China’s economic model over the past decade (and beyond,) or the political climate in the U.S. going into the lame duck session, knows that a plan that has the potential to impact economic growth is beyond unrealistic. Republican leadership in the Senate is not impressed:

McConnell cited the deal as evidence that the president has no plans to move toward the middle to work with the new Congress, which will be under total Republican control for the first time during his presidency.

“I was particularly distressed by the deal that he has apparently reached with the Chinese on his current trip, which as I read the agreement requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years, while these carbon emissions regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states around the country,” McConnell said in response to a question from CBS News Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes. “I would welcome the president moving toward the middle. I have said before I hope we can do some business on trade and maybe tax reform. First indications have not been very helpful.”

Heads of state blow smoke all the time, but this goes beyond a token statement on addressing greenhouse gas emissions. Now that the U.S. and China have taken this step, we’re going to see pressure on other countries to comply with these industry-killing agreements. International groups are ramping up pressure on #3 emitter India to fall in line with the ambitious(ly unrealistic) goals set by China and the U.S.:

India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has already set renewable energy targets for the country, including using solar energy to ensure full energy access by 2019, but analysts and experts are expecting more definitive commitments.

The U.S.-China deal “frees up India to say what it believes is an equitable stance … now that China is saying what it plans to do,” said Alden Meyer, director of international policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

While Modi’s pledge to boost renewable energy is welcomed by activists, New Delhi has stressed it will mine more thermal coal to get power flowing to the third of its 1.2 billion people still without electricity.

With next month’s United Nations climate talks just around the corner, you can expect this issue to remain at the forefront as a welcome distraction for progressives still reeling from the midterms.

Featured Image via HuffPo