Things are suddenly looking promising for next year’s UN climate change conference in Paris. Less than 24 hours after President Obama announced a proposed 30 percent cut in power plant carbon emissions by 2030, China has stated that it will set an absolute cap on its carbon dioxide emissions in its next five-year carbon emissions control plan, which is due to take effect in 2016.
In what we can only hope will turn into an international game of “Me too!” the dual announcements mean the world’s two largest polluters are getting very serious about reducing carbon emissions. As with the rationale put forward by the EPA on Monday, it appears China is recognizing the human cost of its notorious pollution levels, which impact productivity and public health. The announcements come ahead of this week’s UN climate change talks in Germany, a precursor to reaching accord on an international treaty at the Paris conference in 2015.
The Chinese announcement was made by government advisor He Jiankun, chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change. While he did not specify precisely what the limit would be, he did make clear it would be an absolute cap, not one tied to economic growth as implemented under the current five-year plan. Despite the cap, he said that China expected its emissions to continue to grow until 2030. The world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide, the country’s annual emissions currently stand at around 7 to 9.5 billion tonnes per annum, and are expected to peak at 11 billion tonnes before the trend reverses.
Advisor He explained that in order to reduce emissions, China would have to significantly reduce its reliance on coal as an energy source between 2020 and 2025. Non-fossil-fuel power sources would have to provide 20 to 25 percent of China’s energy needs by 2030, including the country’s target of 150 to 200 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity by that date. It is expected that the new five-year plan will be drafted next year and it is hoped that an announcement of a specific cap level in advance of the Paris conference will provide leadership for other nations to commit to taking serious action under the terms of a new treaty.