Today China pledged to put more efforts to limit "greenhouse" gases. It was also reported, that Premier Wen Jiabao would attend the Copenhagen climate summit next month.
The announcements came a day after President Obama said he would join the conference and unveiled a provisional target to reduce carbon emissions in the United States.
The combination of moves creates a glimmer of optimism that the Dec. 7-18 climate talks will bring nations closer to meaningful agreements on emission cuts -- if not next month, then sometime in the near future.
"Wen's presence at the meeting fully embodies the Chinese government's great attention to the issue and its political willingness to address the issue with international cooperation," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang said at a press conference today, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Meanwhile, this announcement puts specific numbers on a September pledge by President Hu Jintao at the United Nations to reduce the intensity of carbon emissions as a percentage of economic growth by 2020 by a “notable margin”. Carbon intensity refers to emissions per unit of economic activity.
Experts described the goal as ambitious — but not unattainable — and said that it was extremely significant both that China had made such a move and that it had come a day after US President Barack Obama said that he would go to Copenhagen to announce personally the US emissions cuts of 17 per cent over the next decade.
Alex Wang of the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group said: “This is setting the stage for a successful meeting.” He described the two targets from Beijing and Washington as opening numbers. “We hope to see a higher range if not beyond. China can definitely do it with renewables and carbon sink development.”
The intensity goal does not mean that China will actually cut its carbon emissions by 2020. In fact, given the expected huge increases in its economy over the next decade, its global warming emissions should increase — but at a much slower pace than if China had made no changes, Times Online reports.
News agencies also report, the firm emissions commitment from China will help efforts to reach a deal at the U.N.-led talks in Denmark.
"This is a huge morale booster," said John Hay, spokesman for the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, referring to the Chinese target and the planned visit by Obama.
"It is extremely welcome news that China is now putting specific figures on its reductions of carbon intensity toward 2020," said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF International's global climate initiative.
Negotiations over a new climate change treaty have stalled as rich and poor nations argued over who should cut emissions, by how much and who should pay, Reuters reports.