China, US in leadership position in emission reduction: UN climate chief

The agreement between China and the United States on emission reduction last year send huge political message and took a leadership position in emission reduction, the United Nations climate change chief Christiana Figueres said here on Thursday.

At a media briefing here in Canberra, Figueres, executive secretary of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the China-US agreement reached in November last year has a lot to do with “North-South political divide when you have the largest emitter among the developed countries and the largest emitter among the developing countries actually joining hands and say they understand that from their own perspectives it is important for them to engage in the issue on their own as well as together.”

“China and the United States took a leadership position before the Peru meeting last year to say two things. First, each of them individually were going to come out in an early fashion with their individual targets for emission reductions. Second, they are collaborating to help each other to reach even further outcomes,” Figueres said.

China and the United States reached an ambitious agreement on emission reduction targets in November last year. China has set a target of peaking its CO2 emission by 2030 and increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 per cent by 2030.

The United States intended to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28 per cent.

“If you had asked me in Copenhagen (at UN climate change conference in 2009), will China ever announce in the near future a peak to coal, I don’t know that I could have answered very positively. It is quite remarkable that China has realized for reasons fundamentally domestic.”

“China has understood that coal can not continue to be the backbone of their economic growth for health reasons, which is exactly the same argument that I heard from the communities living in the La Trobe valley (in Australia) how coal affects their health conditions.”

Reacting to public pressure at home, China has already closed down coal plants around major cities and is deriving lessons from its seven emission trading scheme pilot cities to put forward a national emission trading scheme next year.

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