09/23/2014, 00.00
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China and India snub climate summit at the United Nations

Carbon emissions in China eclipse those of the United States and European Union combined, increasing by 4.5 per cent this year to reach 10.4 billion tonnes. In 2013, China burnt 3.7 billion tonnes of coal, and will burn even more in the future. The United Nations wants countries to offer "promises" of "specific action" on climate.

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Climate Summit opens today at the United Nations to coincide with the fall equinox, marking the end of the hottest summer on record.

The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for the June-August period was a record high for this period, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) above the 20th century average.

Carbon emissions are among the main factors in global warming. China's carbon emissions have soared to eclipse those of the United States and European Union combined.

The Global Carbon Project report had projected that global greenhouse gas emissions would hit a record high this year, driven mainly by China's growth.

However, China, India, Russia and Japan will not be represented in New York by their top political leaders. Indeed, most governments are far from meeting established goals on climate change.

China's carbon emissions are expected to rise by 4.5 per cent this year to 10.4 billion tonnes, more than the 5.2 billion tonnes emitted by the United States and the European Union's 3.4 billion tonnes.

According to the report, world emissions could reach as much as 43.2 billion tonnes in 2019, 12.7 billion from China alone.

The report puts 2014 world carbon emissions at 65 per cent above 1990levels, after repeated promises of curbs and unfulfilled protocols.

The country burnt 3.7 billion tonnes of coal last year, and is expected to use 4.1 billion tonnes in 2015.

Yesterday, more than a million people marched around the world to defend the planet and demand economic, energy and social policies that protect the earth.

The People's Climate March was held in 166 cities around the world bringing together various protest groups, including anarchist and anti-globalisation groups. In the United States, peace groups against the wars in the Middle East also took  to the streets.

Yet prospects for concrete action in the near future at the world body this week are faint since Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declined to attend.

Still, the Climate Summit in New York is expected to welcome more than 120 world leaders and galvanise political will to agree by the end of next year on a global climate treaty for the post-2020 period.

In addition to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US President Barack Obama will attend the summit. His 2008 and 2012 election campaigns were partly successful because of his focus on the environment, although many of the promises have not been fulfilled.

The climate conference in New York will be followed by meetings in Lima (December), Bonn, Germany, and a World Climate Conference of Paris in December 2015

The goal is to reach a joint position on climate change by the time nations meet in the French capital.

However, a workable agreement seems unlikely if China and India do not join in. The two Asian countries are the worst offenders in terms of toxic emissions as well as the two largest manufacturers after Europe and the United States partly delocalised their manufacturing sectors to Asia.

Rather than seeking a legally binding agreement like the 1997 Kyoto Treaty, the United Nations this time wants countries to offer "promises" of "specific action".

Until recently, China regarded climate change as the responsibility of wealthy countries and long-time polluters such as the United States. However, as air turned foul in Beijing and Shanghai, the Chinese public started to call for action, forcing Chinese authorities to change its stance on the environment.

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