China set its first carbon emissions limits on Thursday and said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (pictured) would attend a key environmental summit inCopenhagenin December, signalling a new willingness to tackle climate change.
By News Wires (text)
AFP – China announced its first targets for limiting carbon emissions on Thursday, joining the United States in revealing the stance it will take at next month’s high-stakes climate summit.
China will cut the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product in 2020 by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels, a statement from the State Council, or cabinet, said.
« This is a voluntary action taken by the Chinese government based on its own national conditions and is a major contribution to the global effort in tackling climate change, » the statement said.
It added that China would face « enormous pressure and special difficulty in controlling greenhouse gas emissions ».
The announcement marks the first time China has put specific numbers on a September pledge by President Hu Jintao to reduce the intensity of its carbon emissions as a percentage of economic growth by 2020.
Hu said at the time only that carbon intensity would be reduced by a « notable margin ». However, emissions would continue to grow under China’s plan.
Carbon intensity refers to emissions per unit of economic activity.
China’s announcement came a day after Washington said President Barack Obama would attend the December 7-18 meeting in Copenhagen with an offer to cut US emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
« This is definitely a very positive step China is taking just one week before Copenhagen, » Yang Ailun, Greenpeace China’s climate and energy campaign manager, told AFP. « But we think China can do more than this. »
China earlier Thursday announced that Premier Wen Jiabao would join dozens of other world leaders at the summit, which was called to seek a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
A foreign ministry spokesman said Wen’s attendance would « fully demonstrate the great importance attached by the Chinese government to this issue ».
Scientists have warned that without aggressive action, global temperatures could rise dramatically this century with calamitous consequences for world climate, leading to rising sea levels and other grave threats.
Pressure has mounted on China and the United States, the number one and two sources of carbon emissions, to announce substantive steps to limit their carbon emissions and seek a meaningful deal in Copenhagen.
Compared to the 1990 benchmark used by almost every other country, the US target only amounts to something like a four percent reduction from that year’s levels, Yang said.
In contrast, the European Union has vowed to reduce its emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels before 2020, raising the target to 30 percent in the event of an international agreement.
The US pledge, however, also promised steadily increased cuts to 2050, when emissions would be reduced by 83 percent from 2005 levels.
The United States has urged China to take aggressive steps to limit carbon emissions. But Beijing has argued that rich developed nations bear the historical responsibility for carbon build-up in the atmosphere and should shoulder the burden.
China says that as a developing nation, it should be given leeway on emissions as it seeks to grow its economy and alleviate poverty in the nation of 1.3 billion people.
China also has previously set goals of cutting energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent between 2006 and 2010 and getting 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2010 and 15 percent by 2020.