China vows to dramatically slow emissions growth
27 , 2009 - CARA ANNA - Associated Press
China promised to slow
its carbon emissions, saying it would nearly halve the ratio of pollution to GDP
over the next decade - a major move by the world's largest emitter, whose cooperation
is crucial to any deal as a global climate summit approaches.
voluntary pledge Thurdsay came a day after President Barack Obama promised the
U.S. would lay out plans at the summit to substantially cut its own greenhouse
gas emissions. Together, the announcements are building momentum for next month's
meeting in Copenhagen.
But environmental experts warned that China's plan
does not commit it to reducing emissions - and that they will in fact continue
to increase, though at a slower rate.
With the United States now offering
specifics - reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about 17 percent from 2005 levels
by 2020 - China seemed to follow its lead.
China pledged Thursday to cut
"carbon intensity," a measure of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic
product, by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared with levels in 2005. Beijing also
said Premier Wen Jiabao will take part in the Copenhagen meeting.
no question their carbon emissions would continue to grow under this scenario,"
said Charlie McElwee, an international environmental and energy lawyer based in
Shanghai. "This isn't by any means an agreement by China to either cap, much less
reduce, the amount of its carbon emissions. It's only slowing down the rate at
which emissions are growing."
If China did nothing and its economy doubles
in size as expected in coming years, its emissions would likely double as well.
Thursday's pledge means emissions would only increase by 50 percent in such a
Environmental groups and leaders largely welcomed China's move.
"Before Copenhagen, we desperately need this good news," said Yu Jie, head
of policy and research programs for The Climate Group China, a non-governmental
group. She described China's 45 percent target as "quite aggressive.
EU said the plans from the U.S. and China, which together emit about 40 percent
of the world's greenhouse gases, were essential to progress at the summit but
indicated they still hoped for more. "We will continue to urge the U.S., China
and all our other partners in this negotiation to go to the outer limits of what
is possible," a statement from Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and European
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said. The announcements over the past
two days add significant weight toward achieving a global agreement, though the
Dec. 7-18 conference is unlikely to produce a binding deal as hoped. Leaders now
think delegates at Copenhagen will produce at best an outline for an agreement
to be considered late next year instead.
But Yvo de Boer, the United Nations
climate chief, said the pledges by China and the U.S. pave the way for a deal.
"The U.S. commitment to specific, midterm emission cut targets and China's
commitment to specific action on energy efficiency can unlock two of the last
doors to a comprehensive agreement," he said.
China has said repeatedly
it will seek binding pollution targets for developed countries at Copenhagen -
and reject similar requirements for itself. It has said most environmental damage
was caused by developed nations during their industrialization over the last 100
to 200 years and that they should take most of the responsibility for the cleanup.
McElwee said the voluntary pledge could mean China doesn't have to stick
to its goal - and that it could back out if, for instance, the economy tanks again.
China rejected that argument. "Even though it is voluntary, it is binding
domestically," Xie Zhenhua, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform
Commission, told a press conference, while acknowledging meeting the goal would
Environmental groups said China is trying to balance its
efforts with the need to keep its economy growing quickly to pull people out of
China's State Council, or Cabinet, said its plan to slow its rate
of carbon emissions would come through better research and development, clean
coal technology, advanced nuclear energy and better transportation systems. Tax
laws and regulations will also be changed to encourage energy efficiency.
are two things China will have to do to achieve this. One is to drastically improve
energy efficiency, to use energy in a smart way. Second is to massively develop
renewable energies," said Yang Ailun, climate campaign manager for Greenpeace
"Also, China will have to tackle its overdependency on coal," she
But policies are one thing. The major challenge will be making sure
local governments implement the goals, she said.
Press writers Alexa Olesen and Scott McDonald in Beijing, environmental writer
Mike Casey in Bangkok, Jan Olsen in Copenhagen and Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm
contributed to this report.