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Top Chinese adviser: China to limit carbon emissions from 2016

    Smog in Beijing, China. Photo credit: Lei Han (cc)

One day after the US unveiled their plan to cut carbon emissions with 20 percent by 2030, a top senior adviser to the Chinese government said that the country will set limits to their carbon emissions from 2016.

Reuters report that He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing earlier today that China will introduce an absolute cap on carbon emissions from 2016. “The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap,” He said.

Although later during the day He seemed to downplay his earlier comments, saying that he was only expressing his “personal view” and that they do not represent the views of the Chinese government - potentially after pressure from the latter. “What I said today was my personal view,” He said. “The opinions expressed at the workshop were only meant for academic studies. What I said does not represent the Chinese government or any organization.”

If China were to set a cap on their carbon emissions, it would be a major game changer for international climate talks. So far these talks have suffered from a North versus South, rich versus poor, divide where the U.S. and China have been arguing over who should take the first step to limit carbon emissions.

“The Chinese announcement marks potentially the most important turning point in the global scene on climate change for a decade,” said Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate policy at University College London, to Reuters.

In 2006, China dethroned the U.S. and became the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and their emissions continue to rise steadily. A cap on carbon emissions is therefore very much needed, but the actual impact of such a cap is dependent on which limit and sector its applied to.

“Interesting hint from Beijing, although the key point will be where (the cap) is set. If ambitious and announced well in advance of Paris, it could be a game changer,” Connie Hedegaard, Climate Action Commissioner for the European Union, said in a response.

Following the announcement from the U.S. yesterday and today’s hint from China, things are clearly starting to move again after the huge failure in Copenhagen back in 2009. The big climate summit in Paris next year will be exciting. But it’s doubtful that China will, and even can, limit their carbon emissions before 2030.

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