Chinese President Hu Jintao promised that his country would take a “very significant step” to limit carbon dioxide emissions due to coal burning power plants so that its carbon intensity would come down “by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 levels.” He did however give any firm figure.
Hu added that by 2020 China would boost the portion of renewable energy in its power mix to 15 per cent. However, since it is unclear which sources will provide the other 85 per cent, the significance of renewable energy will remain to be determined. Currently, coal accounts for 70 per cent of the mainland’s energy needs.
For its part, India said that it could agree to “implicit” carbon emissions targets as part of a global climate change deal, but is so doing it has fallen short of expectations, partly because the absence of precise targets makes a global approach difficult.
Still everyone greeted Beijing’s overture with satisfaction; hitherto it had rejected obligations or limits, claiming that it had to favour economic development to free millions of its people from poverty.
Only a few observers voiced some criticism, pointing out that in their statements of intent both India and China did not go very far.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged instead financial and technical aid for poor countries to adapt to climate change, but gave no details on how much cash his country would actually disburse,
The disappointment was partially mitigated by Xie Zhenhua, China’s top environment official, who said that the mainland would soon unveil a target, based on projections that by 2020 it will double its use of renewable energy and dramatically cut energy use per dollar of GDP.
The overture gave Beijing an opportunity, backed by India and other developing countries, to remind rich countries that they must be the first to cut pollution emissions and provide adequate financial support to develop clean energy.