China Pledges To Fight Global Warming… In 15 Years

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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China’s prime minister has announced the government would take actions to peak the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 or sooner, doubling down on a promise he made with U.S. President Barack Obama late last year.

“China’s carbon dioxide emission will peak by around 2030 and China will work hard to achieve the target at an even earlier date,” Prime Minister Li Keqiang said after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande.

Keqiang said the country would reduce its emissions per unit of gross domestic product by at least 60 percent below 2005 levels. The country has also committed itself to getting 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. Keqiang’s doubling down on his promise to reduce CO2 emissions comes less than six months before the United Nations climate summit set to take place in Paris later this year.

Environmentalists hailed the announcement, saying it will help transition the world from fossil fuels to green energy and reduce global CO2 emissions activists and scientists blame for warming the planet.

“China’s climate commitment sets it on a clear path to transition away from heavily polluting coal to cleaner and sustainable energy sources like wind and solar,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Environmentalists argue that these new commitments will build on China’s current promises to reduce the carbon-intensity of their economy at least 40 percent by 2020 and create a cap-and-trade system by 2017.

“This transition to clean energy will also lead to cleaner air and improved health for its citizens,” Suh added. “Today’s news sets the stage for the development of a strong international climate treaty later this year.”

But can China be trusted to carry-out its global warming pledge? China made the same pledge to Obama in late 2014, then proceeded to undercut their promise to the U.S. at U.N. climate talks that took place just after the announcement. For example, China has used its climate pledge as leverage to get more international aid from rich countries, like the U.S., to help poorer countries adapt to global warming.

Obama has made signing a global climate agreement a major part of his presidential legacy, and his administration has been hard at work galvanizing support from other countries. The White House hailed their vague agreement with China as a big win because it’s the world’s largest CO2 emitter. The White House, however, failed to get a similar agreement from India, the world’s third-largest emitter, which was a major blow to Obama’s global warming goals.

For China, the issue of bilking rich countries for climate funding has not gone away. This could potentially pose more problems at the next international climate summit, as past talks have fallen apart over disagreements on how much wealth should be transferred from rich countries to poor ones.

In the CO2 reduction plan it submitted to the U.N., China said it will “urge developed countries to fulfill their obligations under the Convention to take the lead in substantially reducing their emissions and to provide support of finance, technology and capacity building to developing countries, allowing developing countries more equitable access to sustainable development and more support of finance, technology and capacity building and promoting cooperation between developed and developing countries.”

“The scale of financing should increase yearly starting from 100 billion U.S. dollars per year from 2020 which shall primarily come from public finance,” the Chinese plan adds. “The role of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as an important operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention shall be strengthened.”

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