China announces emissions cuts


Climate change


Credit: Clipart

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In a happy move for the global effort to combat climate change, China - the world's largest polluter - has today announced a figure for its planned emissions cuts and agreed to take part in the upcoming climate negotiations in Copenhagen.

China's State Council said that, by 2020, the country will reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions - the emissions produced per unit of economic output - by 40 to 45 per cent of 2005 levels.

"[This] is a major contribution to the global effort in tackling climate change," the Council said in a statement, describing the cuts as "a binding goal" that would be incorporated into the country's future planning.

This is the first time China has talked about emissions reduction in numbers, with President Hu Jintao originally referring only to a reduction of "a notable margin" at September's UN climate summit in New York.

"As we head towards Copenhagen, the world's two largest emitters have stepped up to the plate at the highest political level," said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, referring to yesterday's first announcement that the US would offer emissions cuts of 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 at the climate conference (see G's story here).

"This shows that international engagement on climate change can produce real results."

Now nearly all industrialised countries and major emerging economies have announced emissions goals or major action plans on climate change, Lash said.

"The timing of these announcements underscores how important these countries are to each other. To reach the levels of commitment of Mexico, Brazil, and many other countries, and those necessary to meet global temperature targets, China and the US will eventually need to go further in their pledges," he said.

"But the road to an international agreement is now open more than ever."

Despite the numerical commitment by China, Qi Jianguo, an economic and environmental policy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Chinese news service Xinhua that, given the country's fast-growing economy there is a challenge ahead, and that overall emissions cuts were unlikely.

The country's GDP is expected to at least double by 2020, he said, as would emissions. The 40 to 45 per cent cut in intensity, then, will mean that emissions in 2020 will be "roughly the same as emissions now".

Lash's institute said that while absolute emissions produced by the country may indeed even rise between now and 2020, the country's goal is "still in line with what the International Energy Agency thinks is needed to keep global greenhouse gas concentrations on a path that gives the world a chance of keeping global warming under two degrees Celsius, averting the worst impacts of climate change."

China's Premier, Wen Jiabao, will join other world leaders including Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, to put the emissions cuts on the table and discuss the global climate challenge in Copenhagen this December.