Adviser Says China to Follow U.S. With Carbon Emissions Limit, Then Downplays Statement
Tuesday began with optimism after another global power announced that it would place a limit on carbon dioxide emissions.
On the heels of President Barack Obama's proposal to cut emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels, a high-level adviser to the Chinese government said his nation would be next to put a cap on power plant emissions.
"The government will use two ways to control [carbon dioxide] emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap," He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, said at a conference in Beijing, according to Reuters.
China's next five-year plan begins in 2016. The news would have been the type of momentum officials and climate activists hoped for heading into Wednesday's global climate talks in Germany. The only problem? It remains unclear if it's actually true.
By the the time He spoke again, the adviser downplayed the news he broken earlier.
"What I said today was my personal view," He said. "The opinions expressed at the workshop were only meant for academic studies. What I said does not represent the Chinese government or any organization."
China rose above the U.S. eight years ago to become the world's largest polluter. Many believe the two nations can lead by example and give the world a chance to stave off warming.
"The China-U.S. one is a key trust relationship [in climate talks] and if they are rising above that it sends a very powerful signal to the rest of the world to get serious," John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute, said.
China's possible cap isn't quite as historic as the U.S. announcement because it would not be the first time the country announced a limit. That came in 2009 when Chinese leaders pledged to cut emissions by 40-to-45 percent by 2020, though some global leaders viewed that as a modest target. It was also set relative to the growth of the nation's economy, so the need for a more aggressive target exists five years later.
With the agreement of a global climate treaty in Paris a year and a half away, Frank Jotzo, a lead author on the fifth assessment report from the IPCC and an expert on the economics and climate change policy for the Australian National University, believes the world is in a better spot to fight climate change than it was before the 2009 summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, where China's previous target was announced.
Still, Jotzo said the mystery of He's announcement and its lack of specificity should be a cause to temper expectations. He had a similar feeling for Obama's plan for the U.S., according to comments to The Guardian.
“The announcement of intent of an absolute target doesn’t tell us anything substantive," Jotzo said of China. "[Regarding the U.S.] we have a policy for the electricity sector, but not an overall national number.”
Greenpeace East Asia climate and energy campaigner Li Shuo agreed, but says an official government announcement would indicate true momentum.
“The signal He Jiankun delivered, if it does represent the government view, is a positive note. But we need to see a number and we need some clarification,” he said. “The key battle we lost with the energy cap [of 2011] is that it’s aspirational and not attached to administrative consequences.
"That makes the seriousness of the target questionable.”
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By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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