|A Chinese woman wearing an air pollution mask in Beijing during severe air pollution levels in February. Photo credit: Reuters / Barry Huang.|
By Anders Lorenzen
Hot on the heels of the Obama Administration proposing the first ever legally binding caps on CO2 emissions from existing power plants in the US on 2nd June, China followed troop, saying they would introduce an absolute cap on CO2 emissions soon – though no date has been set, Reuters says.
The bridging gap in reaching a global deal on climate change has been from China’s and the US’s input. China says they would refuse to offer something substantial before the US shows significant ambition, and the US are saying that China, as the world’s largest emitter, must do more.
Still unconfirmed by the Chinese government, on Monday last week (the same day the Obama Administration proposed the Clean Power Plan) a senior advisor to the Chinese government said China was considering imposing a cap on its carbon emissions when its next five-year plan starts in 2016. But no decisions had been taken about the level of any cap, nor when it would be announced.
The fact that the Chinese move came just days after the US’s proposed plan gives hope that a global climate treaty could be reached. So far nothing officially has come from the Chinese government, but Beijing’s top negotiator at U.N. climate talks, Xie Zhenhua, said on Thursday last week: “We will try our utmost to peak as early as possible’’ . Mr Zhenhua who is the vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission said to reporters at an UN climate talks side event in Bonn: “We are working very hard to find a balanced equilibrium between economic development and environmental protection“. Zhenhua continued and said China hoped to define what measure it would present to the much anticipated Paris climate summit in the first half of 2015.
Despite China having added record levels of clean energy capacity, coal is still surging ahead in in the country due to economic growth and the rise of living standards. However, this has come at a price, with coal pollution now thought to be worse than ever before, this has impacted health and led to economic costs. China are the world’s largest CO2 emitter are are facing calls to enact policies that will limit this. It is believed that coal usage will continue to expand until at least 2030, by that time, the US’s proposed plan should have reduced US carbon emissions from existing power plants with 30% from 2005 levels.
Analysts are speculating that the US’s plan prompted China to move and reveal ambitions. This follows several Chinese regions having enacted carbon tax schemes and it is strongly anticipated a national scheme will come into effect in the coming years.
Sub edited by Charlotte Paton