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China Unveils Emissions Target Ahead of Global Climate Conference

The emissions target follows a similar announcement by the Obama administration ahead of next month's U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Chinese motorists ride their electric bikes in heavy fog down a street in Hefei, east China's Anhui province, 25 Nov 2009
Chinese motorists ride their electric bikes in heavy fog down a street in Hefei, east China's Anhui province, 25 Nov 2009

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Michael Bowman

China says it will work to constrain carbon dioxide emissions believed to contribute to global warming. The emissions target follows a similar announcement by the Obama administration ahead of next month's U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen.

China's State Council says China will trim its "carbon intensity" 40 to 45 percent by the year 2020 as compared to 2005 levels. Carbon intensity is defined as the amount of greenhouse gases emitted for each unit of nation income.

By linking the goal to its gross national product rather than setting an absolute emissions target, China - the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases - may actually see its total emissions increase over the next decade, even if it meets the voluntary target. China's economy, one of the world's fastest-growing, is expected to continue to expand at a robust pace.

China has acknowledged the need to limit its carbon emissions, but argued that greater responsibility falls on advanced industrialized nations like the United States, which produced large quantities of greenhouse gases for decades before China's rise as a global economic power.

Wednesday, China's envoy on climate change negotiation, Yu Qingtai, placed blame for current global warming trends squarely on developed nations.

The envoy said developed nations should take "serious action" to remain true to their words in solving the [climate change] problem they caused.

Beijing's announcement comes one day after the United States became the last of several industrialized countries to commit to cutting carbon emissions. The White House says President Barack Obama will attend next month's climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, and will make a provisional pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Mr. Obama as been pushing China and India to commit to reducing emmissions before the summit in Copenhagen. Earlier this week, the president and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled what they called a "green partnership," affirming their commitment to fighting climate change.

The administration's announcement was welcomed by U.N. climate officials. The target pledges by the world's top-two carbon emitters are seen as hopeful signs for progress at Copenhagen, although a final package for global greenhouse gas reduction remains in doubt.

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