China Both Boon and Bane for Emissions Cutting

by | Dec 28, 2009

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emissions-1As a sign that China is committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, China’s national assembly adopted a new law that requires electricity grid companies to buy all the power produced by renewable energy sources, or face a fine, reports AFP.

Despite the new law aimed at cutting GHG emissions, many countries and analysts blame China for blocking the adoption of a climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December.

The Copenhagen meeting resulted in a non-binding agreement with specifics to be determined in 2010, which angered the poorest nations and some Western groups who wanted an ambitious commitment, reports Reuters.

In an editorial for the Guardian newspaper, Mark Lynas, who was attached to one of the delegations, and sat in at the late Friday evening meeting in Copenhagen, says China blocked the open negotiations for two weeks and then made sure that the “closed-door deal” made it look like the West failed to help the world’s poor again.

At the meeting, Lynas says President Barack Obama fought to salvage a deal as the Chinese delegate kept saying “no.”

In addition, Lynas says the Chinese premier, Wen Jinbao, did not attend the meetings personally, and instead sent a second-tier official in the country’s foreign ministry to sit opposite Obama, which was considered a snub to the president.

According to Lynas, it was China’s representative who insisted that industrialized country targets, previously agreed as an 80 percent cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. In addition, China, backed at times by India, took out other numbers including a 2020 peaking year in global emissions, as well as the long-term target of global 50 percent cuts by 2050.

The Chinese delegate also insisted on removing the 1.5-degree C target, which remained, but is essentially meaningless due to the language of the text, says Lynas.

Lynas believes Obama needed a strong deal at the conference and was prepared to increase its offer — confirming an offer of $100 billion to developing countries for adaptation, and cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Supporting Lynas’ view, Reuters also reports that China blocked European countries from including their commitment to cut absolute emissions by 80 percent by 2050, as well as commitments to specific dates when emissions would peak in the final deal, and that the Chinese premier did not attend the final round of direct negotiations between national leaders.

In addition, China would not agree to verification of emissions cuts, which was a key issue throughout the meetings, reports Reuters.

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