China announces ambitious emission caps, NGOs elated

New Delhi, Nov 26 ( Green NGOs were elated Thursday after China announced ambitious cuts in the carbon intensity of its economy by 2020 in a major boost to the global effort to tackle climate change.

China announced a 40-45 percent reduction in the carbon intensity from the business-as-usual scenario by 2020. Carbon intensity measures the amount of carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas that is causing global warming — emitted per unit of industrial output. India’s carbon intensity is one of the lowest among emerging economies.

“A 40-45 percent reduction in China’s carbon intensity from business as usual projections is far from trivial,” said Kim Carstensen, the leader of WWF’s global climate initiative. “Given the size of China’s economy, the decoupling of China’s economic growth from growth in emissions is one of the most important factors that will determine whether the world can get on course to keep temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

“This new announcement from China is worth several gigatons of avoided emissions to the atmosphere. We believe China can achieve at least a 45 percent reduction in its carbon intensity by 2020, and we hope that (Premier) Wen Jiabao will come to Copenhagen, ready to take China at least to the high end of the range announced today.”

Another international NGO Greenpeace also welcomed China’s announcement but said it was not enough.

“Given the urgency and magnitude of the climate change crisis, China needs stronger measures to tackle climate change,” said Ailun Yang of Greenpeace China. “This is a significant announcement at a very important point in time. But China could do more.”

Since 2007, China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, though almost all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now has been put there by developed countries since the start of the Industrial Age.

Yang noted that the announcement by China is yet another commitment for the climate coming from a major developing country ahead of the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit. “This is another challenge to the industrialised world, particularly the US, which has just announced an inadequate emissions reduction target of only 4-5 percent by 2020.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a grouping of over 2,500 scientists from around the world — has said the developed world should cut emissions by at least 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce 80-95 percent by 2050.

Yang said: “The challenge is now to US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to change the politics of the developed world to do what the science says we need.”