China will make "controlling greenhouse gas emissions" an important part of its development plans. The broad intentions set down in a report from a cabinet meeting, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, said global warming threatened China’s environmental and economic health.
Warning of worsening droughts and floods and melting glaciers, the meeting stressed the "urgency" of tackling climate change and called for domestic objectives to control greenhouse emissions.
Beijing has never been keen on tackling pollution right up to the Olympic Games. It has long argued that development comes first when there are still tens of millions living in poverty. But now the risks rising temperatures pose for a densely-populated country with limited natural resources have become crucial. And it coincides with China wanting to exploit a boom in clean technology.
The cabinet meeting also called for boosting development of low-carbon industry and the construction and transport sectors. A senior official promised this month to unveil a plan for "new energy" by the end of the year.
In fairness, in some ways China is doing more than the rest of the world. It is ahead on electric vehicles and wind power. But plainly the government does not see this as enough and there are signs that some emissions goals may be part of the next five-year development plan from 2011.
China’s climate change ambassador, Yu Qingtai, said recently that his country wanted to see output of carbon dioxide peak as soon as possible, a shift away from China’s right to pollute as it develops.
Reuters repeated a dire warning included in the report of the cabinet meeting: "The large amount of greenhouse gases emitted through human activities is the main reason for global warming leading to extreme weather events." This, it said, was also ‘"threatening the security of water supplies".