This deal worked exactly as it was reported it would last week. Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced a target, plus the fact that he would be attending Copenhagen towards the beginning. Now, China has followed suit by announcing an emissions intensity reduction target of 40-45%. This is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of GDP, so China is looking to nearly halve that. Because of a rapidly growing GDP, this reduction still ensures that China’s emissions will rise for awhile, but that as China grows it will grow much more sustainably than it currently is, or was. I expect China will surpass this target anyways, as they’re already furiously investing in renewable energy. For an excellent analysis of what this target really means, check out this blog post by energy policy analysis Julian Wong. Notable excerpts are posted below.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”