Beijing: Environment minister Jairam Ramesh left for Beijing on Thursday night as China — the world’s biggest carbon emitter — revealed its first energy-efficiency targets ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit on December 7.
Ramesh will meet Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Friday, a day after Beijing announced a “voluntary” and “binding” national goal of a 40-45 per cent cut in carbon intensity below 2005 levels by 2020. Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic growth or GDP.
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“China has given a wake-up call to us,” Ramesh told Hindustan Times before leaving for Beijing. “We’ve to think hard about our climate strategy now and look for flexibility, as I’ve been saying for the past two months, to avoid being isolated at the Copenhagen conference. The flexibility can be achieved without taking binding emission cuts.”
China and India, the world’s fourth-biggest polluter, are coordinating a strategy for the Copenhagen conference where nations will negotiate a global plan to curb man-made emissions that cause global warming.
Wen will be attending the climate summit. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is yet to decide whether or not he will go.
Beijing’s announcement came a day after the US said President Barack Obama would attend the climate summit and present a plan to cut emissions by about 17 per cent below 2005 level by 2020.
Yvo de Boer, head of the United Nations climate change efforts, lauded both countries. “The US commitment to specific, mid-term emission cut targets and China’s commitment to specific action on energy efficiency can unlock two of the last doors to a comprehensive agreement,” he said.
“Biggest step forward,” said R.K. Pachauri, head of the UN’s panel on climate change. “Now rich countries should declare a financial commitment for saving the planet so that we can have a treaty at Copenhagen.”
China’s declaration will put pressure on India to consider announcing a target to cut emissions by 2020, like most other advanced nations, before the Copenhagen conference. “Now the pressure is even from the advanced developing countries on us (India) to declare targets on emissions which are not legally binding,” said Ramesh. “We’re studying these development.”
India can achieve 15 to 18 per cent emissions reduction from the projected 2020 levels with steps contemplated in the National Action Plan on Climate Change, but has not officially announced a figure.
China’s new goal does not mean its emissions will reduce. With the new carbon-intensity cuts, Chinese emissions will keep growing with the economy, and faster than India, till 2020 or 2030 when emissions are expected to peak. Chinese officials have avoided announcing a year when emissions will peak before they start to decline.
India has already said its emissions will peak by 2030 with an average economic growth of 8.5 per cent.
Both China and India still oppose binding emission reductions and vouch for “common but differentiated responsibilities” for developed and developing countries.