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China unveils new, ambitious climate goals

Updated: Jul 1,2015 3:10 AM     Xinhua

BEIJING - China on June 30 made fresh pledges on fighting climate change, setting out ambitious targets beyond 2020 in what it calls its “utmost efforts” in tackling the global challenge.

The world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 60 percent to 65 percent from the 2005 level by 2030, according to China’s intended nationally determined contributions (INDC), an action plan submitted to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

That goal will be a big step further from China’s previous emission control target, which eyes a decrease of 40 percent to 45 percent from the 2015 level by 2020.

In 2014, carbon emissions per unit of GDP was 33.8 percent lower than the 2005 level.

The enhanced actions “represent its (China’s) utmost efforts in addressing climate change,” the INDC said.

Acting on climate change is driven by China’s domestic needs to ensure economic and ecological security, as well as by its sense of responsibility to fully engage in global governance, according to the document.

China’s move came amid calls for faster progress on climate talks ahead of a key UN conference in Paris late this year, when the UN hopes the international community will reach a new, universally binding climate pact with a long-term goal of limiting the maximum global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

All parties are expected to submit their INDCs before the Paris meeting. However, as of June 29, only 39 countries of the 196 parties to the convention had submitted their INDCs, according to the UNFCCC website.

Speaking at a high-level UN meeting on June 29, China’s special representative on climate change Xie Zhenhua said “there is very little time between now and the Paris conference”, urging all parties to submit their INDCs and strengthen the implementation.

China’s pledges also added spotlight to the climate issue on the agenda of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to Europe.

Li arrived in France on June 29 after wrapping up a trip to Belgium, where China and the European Union (EU) issued a joint statement to enhance cooperation in the uphill battle against global climate change.

In its INDC, China reiterated its stance that climate talks should follow the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, equity and respective capabilities.

It called on developed countries to “undertake ambitious economy-wide absolute quantified emission reduction targets by 2030” in accordance with their historical responsibilities.

Moreover, the Paris agreement should set quantified targets and a roadmap for developed countries’ financial support to developing countries in the fight against climate change, according to the document.

It said the scale of financing should increase yearly starting from 100 billion U.S. dollars per year from 2020 and that the fund should primarily come from public finance.

China has reached out to other developing countries to help them cope with climate change. Since 2011, China has accumulatively invested around 44 million U.S. dollars in South-South cooperation and provided assistance to other developing countries through low-carbon products, training and capacity building.

As a developing country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, China is among those countries that are most severely affected by the adverse impacts of climate change, according to China’s INDC.

Apart from the emission target, China also lays out plans to expand the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030 from the 11.2-percent ratio in 2014, and increase the forest stock volume by 4.5 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level.

China intends to achieve the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and will make best efforts to peak early, the INDC said, reiterating a goal set in a joint statement between China and the United States -- also a big carbon emitter -- in November 2014.

According to the statement, the United States has set a target of reducing its emissions by 26 to 28 percent from its 2005 level by 2025.