Saturday, 15 November 2014

Experts cool about Sino-US climate deal

They say emissions deal fails to avert the worst effects of global warming
The Straits Times, 14 Nov 2014

BEIJING - China's state media and climate experts sought to temper expectations in the wake of a historic agreement between the United States and China to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

Although a major breakthrough, Wednesday's announcement is unlikely to move the world back into a climate safe zone that would avert the worst effects of global warming, such as rising seas and more extreme droughts and floods, experts say.

The agreement, announced during President Barack Obama's visit with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, calls for the US to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent by 2025.

Mr Xi said China's carbon emissions would peak by 2030, or earlier if possible, and plans to increase the proportion of renewables in its energy mix to about 20 per cent by then.

The United Nations welcomed the pact as a spur to almost 200 nations that have agreed to work out a new UN climate accord in Paris late next year.

Both countries should be able to meet the new goals by pursuing policies largely in place, analysts said.

"What China is pledging to do here is not a lot different from what China's policies are on a track to deliver," said Professor David G. Victor, who studies climate policy at the University of California, San Diego.

Others said the pledges did not go far enough.

"It is a very good sign for both countries and injects strong momentum (into climate negotiations), but the targets are not ambitious enough," said climate scholar Tao Wang of the Tsinghua-Carnegie Centre for Global Policy in Beijing.

China is by far the world's biggest emitter of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, which scientists say drives climate change. But Beijing has resisted targets on reducing output on the basis that it is still a developing country.

Chinese state media sounded a note of caution, stressing "orderly" progress in tackling emissions.

The Global Times daily, which has links to China's ruling Communist party, hailed the pledge as "landmark", but added that Beijing would not make dramatic cuts. "Europe and the US have always been calling on us to reduce emissions, and it's not that we don't want to. But China is after all a developing country," the newspaper said in an editorial in its Chinese language edition.

China's carbon emissions grew nearly 300 per cent between 2000 and last year to reach nearly 10 billion tonnes, according to the Global Carbon Project, a partnership between governments and research bodies. Over the same period, the United States' emissions fell about 9 per cent.

The United Nations says existing global climate policies are not enough to limit global warming to 2 deg C and points to growing global emissions. Scientists say breaching this level risks dangerous climate change. The European Union accounts for 11 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, compared with 16 per cent for the United States and 29 per cent for China. The EU last month pledged to reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN panel of climate scientists, said the deal was "heartening" even though it fell far short of cuts needed to avert the worst of global warming.

It is unclear if the agreement will prompt India, the world's fourth-largest carbon polluter, to adopt an emissions cap. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has signalled it will not announce a reduction target for emissions cuts.

Ahead of the Paris climate talks, pressure is rising on nations to pledge tougher carbon cuts.

On Wednesday, the International Energy Agency said the world is on track to pump so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2040 that it will cause irreparable harm to the planet's ecosystems.


China defends its target to cap carbon emissions by 2030
Others may need to do more to meet UN's objective, says Chinese official
The Straits Times, 15 Nov 2014

BEIJING - China's top climate change negotiator has defended the vagueness of Beijing's target to peak carbon emissions "around 2030", suggesting developed nations may need to make more ambitious cuts.

China, the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide which scientists say causes global warming, has resisted pledging to cut emissions but this week announced a rough date by which it aims to stop them from rising.

"The state of our economy in 2030 is still uncertain, so, as a responsible country, we also need to make responsible targets which we can be sure to meet," Mr Xie Zhenhua, vice-chairman of China's powerful National Development and Reform Commission, told reporters in Beijing yesterday.

Mr Xie added that the target, announced on Wednesday during a visit by United States President Barack Obama, was not yet legally binding and would have to be approved at five-year intervals by China's rubber-stamp Parliament, the National People's Congress.

The US is the world's No. 2 emitter of carbon dioxide and Mr Obama said Washington would aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2025. Climate campaigners welcomed the goals and said they would give new momentum to attempts to reach an international agreement on limiting global warming when world leaders meet in Paris next year.

The European Union, the third-largest producer of greenhouse gases, pledged last month to reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

Outgoing EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard warned that a 2030 emissions peak from China would be too late to avoid dangerous levels of global warming. Scientists argue that drastic measures are needed to limit global warming to the UN's target of two deg C over preindustrial levels, and failing to do so could have disastrous results.

Mr Xie has a reputation as a plucky negotiator and is reported to have shouted at Mr Obama when the US leader barged into a meeting at a climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009. He hinted that if individual emitters' targets were judged not enough to keep warming to within the UN's target, other countries would have to promise deeper cuts.

"Once all the targets have been added together and assessed relative to the two-degree target... then we will be able to assess which countries' targets are powerful, and which countries need to work harder," he said.


China, US strike landmark deal on cutting emissions
Beijing agrees to a cap for first time while US pledges to make deep cuts
By Esther Teo China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 14 Nov 2014

IN A move signalling their potential to work together despite wide-ranging differences, China and the United States have found common cause in climate change, inking a "historic" agreement that commits Beijing to carbon emission targets for the first time.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama also signed military pacts yesterday that promise some safeguards against accidental escalation of territorial conflicts in the East and South China Seas.

Under yesterday's unexpected climate change deal between the world's two biggest polluters, China's greenhouse gas emissions will peak by "around 2030" and fall after that.

Meanwhile, by 2025, the US would cut its emissions by about a quarter from the 2005 level. This is the first time China has committed to capping its emissions.

"This is a major milestone in the US-China relationship," Mr Obama said at a press conference with Mr Xi in Beijing.

The two nations, which account for more than a third of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, have a "special responsibility" to lead efforts against climate change, he added.

US officials say the commitments would encourage other nations to make pledges and deliver "a shot of momentum" into negotiations for a new global pact set to go into force in 2020.

Mr Obama, who was in China for a two-day state visit, also made headway in bilateral trade ties, with deals to issue 10-year tourist and business visas and drop tariffs on IT products.

Both sides also agreed to increase communication between their armed forces to reduce the risk of an isolated mistake escalating into wider conflict.

A near collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a US Navy surveillance plane in August had underlined the need to avoid such mishaps.

In the course of several meetings over the last two days, Mr Xi and Mr Obama also made news for an extended chat after a stroll in Beijing's Zhongnanhai leadership compound.

The informal talks were scheduled to finish in under three hours but lasted for four hours and 40 minutes.

It was seen as a redux of their 2013 Sunnylands meeting in California that lasted eight hours over two days, where both leaders agreed to build a "new type of major-power relationship".

Despite clashes on issues such as cyber-spying and maritime spats, both leaders talked about working together.

Mr Xi said "the Pacific Ocean is broad enough to accommodate the development of both China and the US" while Mr Obama added that a "strong, cooperative relationship" with China was "at the heart of our pivot to Asia".

Sino-US expert Shi Yinhong said the quick breakthrough in military cooperation showed that both sides could work together though "there are still a lot of issues in the relationship".

One such difference surfaced yesterday when both leaders exchanged words over Hong Kong.

Mr Obama denied that the US had played a role in fostering the pro-democracy protests although he expressed support for the protesters' right to express themselves.

It brought a retort from Mr Xi, who described it as an "illegal movement".

"Hong Kong is exclusively China's internal affair and foreign countries should not interfere with those affairs," he said.

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