China Announces First Greenhouse Emissions Target

Dec 1 2009 | 12:00am ET

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will bring something with him when he attends the climate summit in Copenhagen next month – his country’s first firm target to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

On Thursday, China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, pledged to cut the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each yuan of national income 40-45% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels.

The announcement follows U.S. President Barack Obama’s Wednesday pledge to cut emissions 17% from 2005 levels by 2020.

Although welcomed by Copenhagen summit organizers, the Chinese and U.S. targets fell short of environmentalists’ hopes. Obama has been criticized for using 2005 as the benchmark year, rather than 1990. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recommended a 25-40 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries by 2020 based on 1990 levels. Several nations already feeling the effects of climate change have endorsed that target.

Nonetheless, the announcements by the world’s two biggest emitters are expected to give a boost to the Copenhagen discussions.

“The U.S. 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,” said Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat.

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