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China announces first greenhouse gas target
Beijing, Nov 26 (Agencies):
Published on 26 Nov. 2009 11:09 PM IST
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China has unveiled its first firm target to curb greenhouse gas emissions, an ambitious target by the world’s biggest emitter that the Premier himself will take to climate change talks in Copenhagen next month. The State Council, or cabinet, pledged a cut to carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product of 40 to 45 per cent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. The State Council 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.” Underlining China’s commitment to seeing progress in Copenhagen despite the low expectations for any binding outcome, the Foreign Ministry announced that Premier Wen Jiabao would attend. A spokesman said: “We hope to reach a fair and reasonable arrangement.” The Premier’s attendance “fully demonstrates the importance attached to this”. China’s emphasis on tackling its climate change and pollution problems has become a priority for the Government. This announcement puts specific numbers on a September pledge by President Hu Jintao at the United Nations to reduce the intensity of carbon emissions as a percentage of economic growth by 2020 by a “notable margin”. Carbon intensity refers to emissions per unit of economic activity. Experts described the goal as ambitious — but not unattainable — and said that it was extremely significant both that China had made such a move and that it had come a day after US President Barack Obama said that he would go to Copenhagen to announce personally the US emissions cuts of 17 per cent over the next decade. Alex Wang of the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group said: “This is setting the stage for a successful meeting.” He described the two targets from Beijing and Washington as opening numbers. “We hope to see a higher range if not beyond. China can definitely do it with renewables and carbon sink development.” The intensity goal does not mean that China will actually cut its carbon emissions by 2020. In fact, given the expected huge increases in its economy over the next decade, its global warming emissions should increase — but at a much slower pace than if China had made no changes. China already has a goal to cut energy intensity by 2010 by 20 per cent — a target it should meet by a whisker and probably only because the global financial crisis slowed its red-hot growth last year. The carbon intensity goal is particularly important because coal accounts for a massive 70 per cent of China’s total electricity output. Allan Zhang, head of carbon markets in Beijing with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, said: “I would say it is a very aggressive target... This 40-45 per cent reduction is quite big. I am sure they will have to come up with subsequent action plans to implement it.” He cited the link with actions from the US — the world’s number two carbon emitter. “This will be the official position of China and it will be quite something. I am sure it will put more pressure on the US side. It is definitely a significant move, but to achieve it will be quite a challenge.” China and the US together account for some 40 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. But Beijing is already almost halfway to meeting the carbon intensity goal already after a five-year energy efficiency drive that has helped to rein in emissions growth. Critics counter that this new goal is not sufficiently ambitious given the strong growth of China’s economy. Yang Ailun of Greenpeace in Beijing, said: “It’s very positive that China has announced its target right now, it’s a very positive signal for Copenhagen. It is within the range that people have been speculating. Greenpeace believes China could do more. It’s not as ambitious as it could be. China could do at least 50 per cent.”

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