Quick Edit | New hopes at Copenhagen

Quick Edit | New hopes at Copenhagen

Suddenly, there is a ray of hope cutting through the greenhouse gloom.

The two largest polluters in the world have said that they will embrace self-restraint.

US President Barack Obama will go into the forthcoming climate change talks in Copenhagen with an offer to bring US greenhouse gas emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.

China has followed up with a voluntary commitment to cut the carbon intensity of its economy rather than the amount of carbon it spews out: a subtle, yet important distinction. China will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide it emits for every unit of its national income to around 45% of its 2005 levels by 2020.

These promises of voluntary action come as a surprise, because both the US and Chinese governments had stuck to their guns till last week, thus promising a damp squib at Copenhagen.

And what about India? The government is clearly split down the middle. The offers by the Americans and the Chinese will likely strengthen the camp that favours some voluntary limits on emissions.