China's President Fails at Climate Summit, Refuses to Outline Emission Targets

NEW YORK, Sept. 23 (UPI) — Chinese President Hu Jintao’s much-anticipated address Tuesday at the United Nations summit on climate change was met with disappointment because he failed to outline any specifics regarding emissions targets.

China “will endeavor” to reduce its carbon intensity “by a notable margin by 2020 from 2005 levels,” Hu told more than 100 world leaders at the pivotal summit, the final gathering before December’s conference in Copenhagen to forge a climate change agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.

Carbon intensity is the amount of CO2 produced for each unit of economic output. Hu’s announcement means that if China’s economy continues its rapid growth, it will still spew more greenhouse gases, but at a slower rate without limiting total emissions. But rich nations want China to agree on a date when its emissions would peak, which it continues to resist.

China has overtaken the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.

Former Vice President Al Gore’s reaction to Hu’s address was less than enthusiastic. “I think the glass is pretty much half full where China is concerned,” Gore told The New York Times. Michael Levi, an energy expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, was equally terse: “The Chinese had gone out of their way, along with U.N. officials, to emphasize the importance of this speech. It didn’t deliver on that.”

Hu also announced that China will generate 15 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources within 10 years and work to develop a green economy. He said China plans to plant huge forests, enough to cover an area the size of Norway.

In China, Hu’s announcement is likely to send a clear message that low-carbon projects will get priority for bank loans and regulatory approval.

A day after Hu’s speech, China’s tax authorities published a lengthy document detailing how to put forward a carbon tax by 2012, the Wall Street Journal reports. That’s the year when the climate treaty to be negotiated in December in Copenhagen goes into effect.

Greenpeace China’s climate expert Yang Ailun said the Chinese president’s message “is a step in the right direction and seriously challenges industrialized countries, especially the United States, to take on their fair share of reducing emissions and protecting the world from climate catastrophe,” the Journal reports.

Environmental groups in China said the adoption of a carbon-intensity target would prompt domestic industries to reduce their use of coal, which now accounts for 70 percent of China’s energy, the Guardian reports.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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