Tuesday

15th Jun 2021

China pledges 40% cut in CO2 ahead of summit

  • Shanghai: China is the world's largest emitter of CO2 (Photo: stuck_in_customs)

China has finally come to the table with a CO2 emissions reduction target ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit less than two weeks from now. But its proposal would still mean emissions growth in net terms in the coming years.

Until now, the Middle Kingdom, the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, has resisted all pressure to come up with a specific target, preferring to emphasise its plans for energy efficiency and renewable energy instead.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

On Thursday (26 November), Beijing announced that at a Chinese State Council executive meeting the day before, the country's leadership agreed to a cut of between 40 and 45 percent on 2005 levels by 2020.

"China has always attached great importance to climate change, unswervingly taking the road of sustainable development," the government said in a statement.

The offer came a day after the United States tabled its provisional proposal of a reduction. At the UN climate summit in Copenhagen December, US President Barack Obama is to announce a cut "in the range of" 17 percent on 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by 2050.

The EU, by comparison, has agreed it is to reduce its emissions by 20 percent on 1990 levels by 2020, moving up to a 30 percent cut if an ambitious agreement is reached in Copenhagen.

To use the same baseline as the EU, the US offer amounts to a reduction of four to five percent on 1990 levels.

While on the face of it, China, a rapidly developing but still relatively poor country, appears to trump by a considerable margin the offer of the US, a fully industrialised nation, details in the Chinese target give pause for thought.

Washington has proposed its reduction based on its absolute level of emissions, while Beijing's target is a reduction of 40-45 percent "per unit of GDP."

The reduction therefore depends on by how much the Chinese economy grows. Assuming an eight percent growth rate, China's average economic expansion in recent years, this will mean an increase in absolute emissions and not a reduction.

However, the Chinese proposal would see a cap on the rate of growth, in line with UN demands that industrialised countries reduce their emissions by between 25 and 40 percent on 1990 levels and developing countries reduce emissions by between 15 and 30 percent on 2005 levels.

The EU is being cautious before the Chinese offer has been fully assessed, but it is understood that as a result of bilateral talks, Brussels had been expecting deeper cuts.

EU disappointed

EU leaders called both the Chinese and US offers "disappointing."

"We recognise the steps China is taking to tackle climate change, but the proposed targets will be disappointing to some," said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in a joint statement.

"We will continue to urge the US, China and all our other partners in this negotiation to go to the outer limits of what is possible in order to find agreement in Copenhagen."

Climate experts are also busy crunching the numbers to assess the full significance of Beijing's proposed target.

However, according to Niklas Hoehne, of Ecofys, a Dutch sustainable energy consultancy firm, the target is still "ambitious."

"If they'd offered an absolute reduction of 40-45 percent on 2005 levels, that would have been quite a stunner. But that's really unlikely to happen. The offer is however in line with what the science demands, unlike industrialised countries," he said. "It's a very positive step forward."

Demands of science

"But it's difficult to say just yet what this means precisely, as China has not provided a lot of details. It doesn't increase the ambition levels from what we have already heard, but it is in line with its already ambitious energy efficiency and renewables plans."

"The key is that China's announced a target, which they have strongly rejected all along."

Other green campaigners were impressed by the move.

"This is a significant announcement at a very important point in time," said Ailun Yang of Greenpeace China, while still calling on China to do more. "This is another challenge to the industrialised world, particularly the US."

Kerry resets climate relations before Glasgow summit

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy, was in Brussels to discuss how to tackle climate change with the European Commission. His appearance also marked a major shift in relations after the previous US administration under Donald Trump.

Commission: Pioneering Nordics' energy mix 'example' to EU

The Nordic electricity market is an example of successful market integration plus climate action, as the share of sustainable energy keeps growing, the European Commission said. However, the decarbonisation of the transport sector remains a challenge.

Investigation

How Energy Treaty 'shadow' courts prolong EU's fossil age

The treaty enables companies to claim billions in compensation from states in front of international arbitration tribunals, if they feel unfairly treated by the states' energy or climate policies.

Feature

Adriatic Sea 'risks turning into a water desert'

The Adriatic Sea risks turning into a water desert, experts warn. Overfishing, bottom trawling, pollution, and climate change are seriously threatening the biodiversity of the Adriatic.

EU's 2021 fishing quotas to exceed scientific advice

EU minister for fisheries have agreed on fishing opportunities for 2021, with provisional quotas for the fish stocks shared with the UK. However, experts warned that some of these quotas will lead to overfishing "with detrimental effects on fish populations".

News in Brief

  1. BBC and others boycott Belarus press circus
  2. Report: EU and US to unveil aircraft subsidy truce
  3. Putin refuses to guarantee Navalny will survive jail
  4. Erdoğan agrees to pull out mercenaries from Libya
  5. EU starts sale of first bonds for Covid-19 recovery fund
  6. Germans told not to 'storm pharmacies' for Covid pass
  7. Indonesia warns Covid-19 wave may not peak until July
  8. WTO chief: 'drop trade barriers on Covid-19 treatments'

EU faces long wait for full vaccine supplies

The EU is still several months away from having enough vaccines to inoculate its 450 million people, with Pfizer and BioNTech, its principle suppliers, aiming for September for delivery targets.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. China officially joins Russia as a danger to Nato
  2. German Greens face reality check amid CDU gains
  3. EU Parliament wants Europe to take lead on sea-rescues
  4. MEPs urged to end gas-funding, fix cross-border projects rules
  5. Biden in Brussels - what's in the 'in-tray'?
  6. Yemen foreign minister to EU: to stop the war, talk to Iran
  7. Brexit grumbles overshadow UK summit
  8. Former French PM to work for Russian oil firm

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us