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China pledges effort to limit its 'greenhouse' gases

The vow comes a day after Obama promised a cut by the U.S., and leaders of both countries now say they'll attend a climate summit next month.

November 26, 2009|By David Pierson

Reporting from Beijing — China pledged today to increase its efforts to limit "greenhouse" gases, and said that Premier Wen Jiabao would attend the Copenhagen climate summit next month.

The announcements came a day after President Obama said he would join the conference and unveiled a provisional target to reduce carbon emissions in the United States.

The combination of moves creates a glimmer of optimism that the Dec. 7-18 climate talks will bring nations closer to meaningful agreements on emission cuts -- if not next month, then sometime in the near future.

"Wen's presence at the meeting fully embodies the Chinese government's great attention to the issue and its political willingness to address the issue with international cooperation," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang said at a press conference today.

China's State Council said by 2020 the country would reduce its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40% to 45% compared with levels in 2005.

This is "a voluntary action based on our own national conditions" and "is a major contribution to the global effort in tackling climate change," the State Council said.

While China's cuts are welcomed, Greenpeace China said the targets did not go far enough, considering China's emissions are expected to continue rising. A pledge in the 45% to 50% range would have been better, they said.

And China's GDP is expected to grow, so its total emissions might not drop.

Despite this, the recent moves by China and the U.S. show a willingness to lead the globe toward a climate solution, said Yang Ailun, climate campaign manager for Greenpeace China. "They're definitely feeling the heat from Copenhagen," Yang said. "The two big countries are setting up a good foundation. China will have to be more energy efficient, which means more renewable energy. They'll have to tackle their over-dependency on coal."

China and the U.S., the world's two leading polluters, have sparred over emission reduction commitments.

Beijing is reluctant to agree to any cuts that would jeopardize its economic growth and believes that developed nations, as the biggest polluters historically, should assume a larger share of overall reductions.

Washington asserts that global warming cannot be stemmed unless China agrees to more ambitious cuts. Some lawmakers are reluctant to enter binding agreements unless China and India do too, for fear it will make the U.S. less economically competitive.

On Wednesday, the White House said the U.S. would "put on the table" a commitment to reduce emissions by around 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83% by 2050.

The pledge is consistent with language in a climate bill stalled in the Senate.

In the lead-up to the Copenhagen summit, which was supposed to succeed the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012, other countries have also announced how much they were willing to reduce their emissions.

Brazil said it aimed to cut as much as 42%, the United Kingdom 34% and Japan up to 25%.

Despite China's resistance to binding emission caps, it has already pledged to rely on renewable energy such as wind and solar power for 15% of its power needs by 2020.

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