Chinese President Hu Jintao’s pledge to cut "carbon intensity" marked Beijing’s first declared international acceptance that it must control emissions, a pivotal shift that could alter the dynamic of global climate change talks.
This was China’s first open and official recognition of a responsibility the rest of the world has long urged it to shoulder— that of counting and curbing its emissions of greenhouse gases.
Previously, Beijing had always argued that although it would attempt to control greenhouse gas output, as a developing country China could not accept any specific targets because they might hinder the fight against poverty.
As China is now the world’s top emitter, the shift should smooth talks on a new global framework to tackle climate change, due to be finalized at UN-led talks in Copenhagen in December.
Hu’s decision to unveil the new policy in a rare address to the United Nations was also a sign to the international community that climate change has become a priority for China’s leaders.
Deborah Seligsohn, China program director at the World Resources Institute in Beijing, said, "It was enormously important. And the fact that, when Hu was addressing the United Nations, this was the subject he chose to speak on— I think it is impossible to overstate the importance of that as well."
Reuters reported that former President George W. Bush set a US carbon intensity goal after rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, so it is hard for Washington to dismiss Hu’s plans out of hand. This new declaration appeals to those in the financial industry who hope to see China set up a carbon trading scheme, as it will boost Beijing’s ability to measure output of greenhouse gases.