China unveils emissions targets ahead of Copenhagen

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I was watching the news this week when i came accross this topic and decided to research on it a bit further. Below is an article that was published on the bbc news website regarding the cutting of co2 emmissions by both China and the US ahead of the Copenhagen UN summit due to take place from 7th december. It raised a number of questions in my head and would really appreciate your views on this (note the analysis by richard black).

China has unveiled its first firm target for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, two weeks before a global summit on climate change in Copenhagen.

Beijing said it would aim to reduce its “carbon intensity” by 40-45% by the year 2020, compared with 2005 levels.

Carbon intensity, China’s preferred measurement, is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of GDP.

But our correspondent says it does not mean China’s overall levels of carbon dioxide will start falling.

Its economy is still growing and is mostly fuelled by polluting coal, says the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville in Beijing.

It will be at least a couple of decades before China’s emissions peak, so it is likely to remain the largest polluter for some time to come, he adds.

But greenhouse gas emissions in China have not been rising as fast as its economy has been growing.

Beijing also said on Thursday that Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao would attend the talks.

That confirmation came a day after US President Barack Obama said he would go to the summit.

The US – the second largest polluter after China – said President Obama would offer to cut US emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020.

But the offer was less than hoped for by the EU, Japan and UN scientists – most other countries’ targets are given in comparison with 1990 figures.

BBC environment correspondent Richard Black says that on that basis the US figure amounts to just a few percentage points, as its emissions have risen by about 15% since 1990.

This is much less than the EU’s pledge of a 20% cut over the same period, or a 30% cut if there is a global deal; and much less than the 25-40% figure that developing countries are demanding.

President Obama’s offer reflects figures in a bill narrowly passed by the House of Representatives in June, but yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

He will arrive at the summit after it opens and will not stay until the end, when delegates hope to stitch together a deal. While in Europe, he will also collect his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

Thursday’s announcement by China marks the first time it has issued numerical targets for plans to curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

A statement from Beijing’s 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,” Xinhua news agency reported.

Our Beijing correspondent says this is a commitment to make Chinese factories and power plants use fuel more efficiently and get better results.

China is showing that it wants to play a leading role in tackling global climate change, he adds.

It has already made a pledge to increase its renewable energy targets to grow more forests and develop green industries.

Yang Ailun, Greenpeace China’s climate campaign manager, told AFP news agency: “This is definitely a very positive step China is taking, but we think China can do more than this.”

ANALYSIS
Richard Black, BBC News environment correspondent

The 40-45% target for cutting carbon intensity is ambitious – more ambitious than many observers had expected.

But it doesn’t mean China’s emissions will fall – in fact they are still likely to rise, with the rate at which economic growth rises outstripping the rate at which carbon intensity falls.

This is exactly the kind of plan that major developing countries were supposed to take to the Copenhagen summit.

Coming on the heels of President Obama’s decision to put numbers on the table for cutting US emissions, it is likely to make discussions in Copenhagen a lot more straightforward.

But whether developing countries are impressed by the size of the US commitment is another matter.

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2 Responses to “China unveils emissions targets ahead of Copenhagen”

  1. Kawsu Ceesay Says:

    China relies heavily on coal for energy production for its energy-hungry manufacturing industries. So the point is, apart from emissions coming from the manufacturing industries, there is a great deal of methane produced as a direct result of the coal mining activities. So the emissions cuts China is planning may not amount to anything as long as they continue to heavily depend on coal for energy.
    By Kawsu Ceesay

  2. chikaj Says:

    As I read your blog, I was surprised to learn that China is setting the pace in ensuring environmental sustainability but given Richard Black’s analysis, I am quite apprehensive.
    My apprehension is not helped by China’s growing need to maintain its booming economy. Such a goal requires more industrialisation and remains at odds with an environmental sustainability policy.
    With regards to developing countries, I will post a blog that gives a bit of insight into the views of African delegates on the Copenhagen conference.

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