Although some 100 world leaders met last week for a U.N. climate summit, most of the attention was on just two — President Barack Obama and China's Hu Jintao. Both vowed to take the threat of rising seas, drought and deforestation seriously.
China and the U.S. each account for about 20 percent of all the world's greenhouse gas pollution created when coal, natural gas or oil are burned. The European Union is next, generating 14 percent, followed by Russia and India, which each account for 5 percent.
Chinese President Hu Jintao's speech at the UN climate change summit Tuesday on China's efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions has been applauded by world leaders, officials and experts.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed appreciation to China's new proposal. "I think that anyone who still doubts their sincerity on climate change needs to take another look. China realizes the impact that climate change has and that they must act," Ban said.
In his address, Hu said China will intensify effort to conserve energy and improve energy efficiency, and endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by a "notable margin" by 2020 from the 2005 level.
Former U.S. vice president and 'environmental activist' Al Gore praised on Tuesday China's efforts the country has devoted to tackle climate change. "It's not widely known in the rest of the world but China in each of the last two years has planted two and half times more trees than the entire rest of the world put together," he noted. He believed Hu's remarks could point to more actions.
The Chinese president said at the summit that China will adopt to further integrate actions on climate change into its economic and social development plan.
Andrew Deutz of the Washington-based Nature Conservancy said China's announcement was "a step in the right direction." "China is creating expectations for Copenhagen, even if it has not delivered yet," he said.
Greenpeace China climate change campaign manager Yang Ailun said Hu's speech was a positive sign that China was serious about fighting climate change, as it "has publicly confirmed that China would have a carbon emissions reduction target."
Oxfam Hong Kong campaign coordinator Stanley So also praised Hu for showing "willingness" to take on responsibility for reducing emissions.
India, too, may draw away some of the spotlight for laying out plans for the fifth-biggest contributor of global warming gases to bump up fuel efficiency, burn coal more cleanly, preserve forests and grow more organic crops. "The crisis today on climate change is the inability of the United States to put on the table credible emissions reduction targets for 2020," said Jairam Ramesh, India's environment minister.
The United States, under former President George W. Bush's administration, long cited inaction by China and India as the reason for rejecting mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases.
Sounds like a childish game to me; did the strategy "I won't do it because he won't" ever get anyone anywhere? Enough with the excuses; lets see the action.
"We don't have much time left to make it," Obama told the highest-level conference yet on climate change. "We understand the gravity of the climate threat. We are determined to act. And we will meet our responsibility to future generations." Obama said his administration has made the "largest-ever" American investment in renewable energy: doubling the generating capacity from wind and other renewable resources in three years, launching offshore wind energy projects and spending billions to capture carbon pollution from coal plants. Obama has announced a target of returning to 1990 levels of greenhouse emissions by 2020. Todd Stern, the top U.S. climate envoy, said the Obama administration is moving "full speed ahead" toward helping craft a global climate deal.
Tuesday's meeting is intended to rally momentum for crafting a new global climate pact at Copenhagen, Denmark, in December. Bush rejected the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for cutting global emissions of warming gases, which expires at the end of 2012, based on its impact on the U.S. economy and exclusion of major developing nations like China and India, both major polluters.
But neither China nor India say they will agree to binding greenhouse-gas cuts like those envisioned in a new climate pact to start in 2013. They question why they should, when not even the U.S. will agree to join rich nations in scaling back their pollution.
The EU is urging other rich countries to match its pledge to cut emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, and has said it would cut up to 30 percent if other rich countries follow suit.
Activists on Tuesday criticized Obama's speech for lacking specifics. "While other countries announced specific targets and timetables, including China, Japan and the Maldives, President Obama did not address these critical elements," said Keya Chatterjee, head of the World Wildlife Fund's climate program.
"Someone must have switched the coffee to decaf at today's U.N. climate summit," Oxfam International spokesman David Waskow said. "Heads of state did not seem to have the necessary energy to deliver the drive we need heading into Copenhagen. We must not let poetic words cover up inadequate action." "President Obama did not go far enough today and he really needs to throw himself in the game," Waskow said. "Other countries, however, did step up: China expressed readiness to set a carbon intensity target and Japan announced to the world its intention to achieve substantial emissions cuts by 2020."
The United States hasn't passed any mandatory curbs on greenhouse gases; come on Obama, you said it was time to change, now its time to get a move on.
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