Quantcast

Adviser Says China to Follow U.S. With Carbon Emissions Limit, Then Downplays Statement

Climate

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."

A Chinese adviser sent mixed messages earlier this week about his country's intentions on carbon emissions. Photo credit: Greenpeace East Asia

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.”

——–

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

How China’s Coal Addiction Could Make Fighting Climate Change ‘Almost Impossible’

Obama and EPA Release Historic Carbon Reduction Plan to Fight Climate Change

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More