Our briefing this morning looked at the efforts China and other nations are making on climate change ahead of next month’s Copenhagen summit. At issue was Beijing’s trenchant stance on emissions – China’s chief climate envoy yesterday said that the country wouldn’t trade emissions cuts for slower growth and criticized Europe for not making good on its climate promises (in terms of technology transfer) – versus the more conciliatory attitude of the US.
If Barack Obama turned up in Copenhagen and offered to reduce US emissions by 17% on 2005 levels by 2020, the briefing asked, would the momentum swing to him and China find itself under pressure to deliver more than just stoicism? Within the confines of Copenhagen, climate change has become a highly politicized issue and good politics is all about being seen to be accommodating.
Based on the events of today, China knows this all too well. This afternoon it was announced that China will reduce its carbon intensity – the amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of GDP – by 40-45% on 2005 levels by 2020. Premier Wen Jiabao was also confirmed as the senior Chinese representative in Copenhagen, an indication that Beijing is taking its role on climate change seriously.
Is it enough, though? China has been hinting at carbon intensity targets for the past few months but, even if they are properly implemented, emissions will likely continue to rise for some time. It is a positive gesture but one that isn’t very far removed from the official government line: The developed world should take primary responsibility for reducing emissions and provide cash to developing nations so that they can try their best to do the same over an unspecified time period.