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China Pledges Climate Emissions Cuts, Premier Wen Bound for Copenhagen

BEIJING, China, November 26, 2009 (ENS) – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will attend the United Nations’ climate summit in Copenhagen next month, the government of China announced today.

The State Council also announced that China is going to reduce the intensity of its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40 to 45 percent compared with the level of 2005.

Premier Wen Jiabao (Photo courtesy World Economic Forum)

The press statement issued today by the State Council said the index of carbon dioxide emissions cuts, announced for the first time by China, would be “a binding goal” to be incorporated into China’s medium and long-term national social and economic development plans.

Given the country’s huge population of more than 1.3 billion people, prominent economic structural problems, coal-dominated energy consumption structure, and increasing demand for energy, the government needs to make strenuous efforts to realize the new target, said the statement.

New measures will be formulated to audit, monitor and assess its implementation, according to the government statement.

This is “a voluntary action” taken by the Chinese government “based on our own national conditions” and “is a major contribution to the global effort in tackling climate change,” the State Council said.

To date, 67 heads of state and government have accepted Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s invitation to attend the climate change conference, which is aimed at writing a legally-binding agreement to limit heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are raising the planetary temperature. The agreement would take effect at the end of 2012, when the first commitment period of the current agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, expires.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced that he will attend the Copenhagen conference and announced a provisional U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 184 governments that are parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change since 1997, but it has not been ratified by the United States.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries are required to set clear targets for emissions reductions The European Union, Canada, Japan and Australia, among other developed members, all set respective targets that average 5.2 percent below 1990 levels in the 2008-2012 first commitment period.

Developing countries such as China and India do not need to set any emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Coal-fired Shentou-2 power plant in China’s northern Shanxi province (Photo courtesy Skoda Export)

In tandem with today’s announcement of a reduction in the intensity of its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 2020, the State Government said China will devote “major efforts to developing renewable and nuclear energies to ensure the consumption of non-fossil-fuel power accounted for 15 percent of the country’s total primary energy consumption by 2020.”

It said more funding will be invested in research, development and industrialization of technologies for energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean coal development, carbon capture and storage and advanced nuclear energy technologies.

Laws, regulations and standards will be formulated and fiscal, taxation, pricing and financial measures will be introduced to manage and monitor the implementation of those laws and regulations, said the statement.

The State Council said it would encourage greater public awareness in addressing global climate change and low-carbon lifestyles with lower energy consumption.

China will plant more trees to increase the country’s forest area by 40 million hectares and forest volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters from the levels of 2005, the government said.

The State Council also said China would expand cooperation with foreign countries in raising its capacity to cope with climate change and import low-carbon and environment-friendly technologies.

The State Council said that as a responsible developing nation, China advocates global concerted efforts in addressing climate change “through pragmatic and effective international cooperation.”

Environmental groups welcomed China’s announcement. The global conservation group WWF called it “an important boost to the summit” and said it “increases the prospects that it will result in an ambitious global climate deal.”

“The world needs a legally binding agreement, and we need leaders like Wen Jiabao to come to Copenhagen to make that happen,” said Kim Carstensen, the leader of WWF’s global climate initiative.

WWF also welcomed China’s announcement of specific figures for a reduction in the carbon intensity of its economy by 2020.

“A 40-45 percent reduction in China’s carbon intensity from business as usual projections is far from trivial,” Carstensen said. “Given the size of China’s economy, the decoupling of China’s economic growth from growth in emissions is one of the most important factors that will determine whether the world can get on course to keep temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.”

The leaders of Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom have already announced their attendance in Copenhagen.

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