A Changing Climate Position in China?
A couple of weeks ago, we reported that a number of US Senators had written a letter to President Obama urging (insisting?) that U.S. climate legislation include a "border adjustment mechanism". In an article for Point Carbon , we also noted that China and India, both of which are classified by the UN as developing nations, were not going to be especially pleased with what really amounts to a US tariff on imports. We also predicted that if one country was to eventually capitulate to international pressure on its climate change policy, it would be China.
Are we going to start to see signs of that?
Back on August 5, China's Climate Change Ambassador (seems like everyone has one of these positions now), Yu Qingtai, said that China is looking to halt its emissions as soon as possible, although not at the expense of pulling its tens of millions of people out of poverty. If this seems like a similar tune the Indian government has been singing, that's because it is. You'll recall that the Indian Environment Minister said basically the same thing on July 31.
However, the Chinese position may be slightly softer. According to Reuters, Yu Qingtai also said that "China was willing to thrash out emissions-cutting targets for rich nations at U.N.-led talks later this year, dropping an earlier demand for a reduction of at least 40 percent". Although China is one of the nations advocating for climate funds from developed nations, according to Yu Qingtai, "there is no one in the world who is more keen than us to see China reach its emissions peak as early as possible".
Last week, a study published by some of China's top climate policy advisors concluded that it was feasible for China to peak its emissions by 2030. Although the report does not represent official Chinese policy, it is among several reports out of China which estimate emissions reductions in China in the next 20 years. An article from the Centre for American Progress, the D.C. based think tank headed by John Podesta is optimistic that China's position on climate change is moving in the general direction of the developed world.
Julian Wong from the CAP, reports:
China may announce its next five-year plan as early as this year, and many expect that it will contain even stronger commitments and perhaps incorporate some measure of carbon reductions in the form of benchmarks for reducing carbon intensity. China's State Council, led by Premier Wen Jiabao, last week laid down the objective of incorporating climate change considerations into "the medium and long-term development strategies and plans of government at every level." Also, Sun Qin, the vice chief of the National Energy Administration said he expects the government to complete a comprehensive plan for new and low-carbon energy development by the end of the year. A low-carbon strategy will be a central thread in China's ongoing economic development strategy.
China is also hinting at increased flexibility in the negotiation process. Su Wei, director-general of the climate change office within the National Development and Reform Commission, China's main economic planning agency, has signaled a change in tone, saying, "China will not continue growing emissions without limit or insist that all nations must have the same per-capita emissions. If we did that, this earth would be ruined." China maintains its hard line that developed countries are historically responsible for climate change, but climate envoy Yu has also backed off somewhat from China's previous demands that all developed countries commit to 40 percent reductions in carbon emissions by 2020, saying that, "[a] concrete figure has to be decided by the negotiations; we will get a result in Copenhagen."
This doesn't mean that China is all of a sudden going to abandon its domestic policy and international position on emissions reductions, but it does seem to signal that China may be more flexible than other developing nations. With the world's second highest greenhouse gas emissions, it should be.