China announced today, June30, 2015, a commitment to reduce net emissions through a combination of environmental plans. As China industrializes and urbanizes, their contribution of Greenhouse gasses to the environment has increased, Beijing, tourism is down 14 percent and pedestrians tend wear masks that filter out tiny suspended particles known as PM2.5. When polluting emissions were halted during the Olympics, birth weight and health of babies increased. With a population of more than 1.3 billion, they are a big player in terms of emissions and could be a leader in terms of a turn away from a carbon-based economy. China’s plan constitutes its much anticipated strategy for United Nations climate talks.
Some in the United States have used China’s escalating emissions as an excuse to not act aggressively to curb emissions. The argument being, why should we make a big effort if China is dumping greenhouse gasses in escalating tonnage? World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the following statement from Lou Leonard, US vice president, climate change:
“For too long, those seeking to delay climate action have pointed a finger across the Pacific and said that the US should not act until China does. The commitments China outlined today essentially quash that overused and outdated argument.”
The statement from China outlines a commitment to the following:
- Increase forests for carbon sinks
- Increase renewable energy sources
- Promote lifestyle changes tied to energy consumption
- Reduce pollution from coal
- Increase “safe” nuclear power
- Consider regional use of waste as energy sources
- Increase recycling
- Embark on Green building plans
- Promotion of biking and public transportation
Controversies in the plan include concerns about the belief in “clean coal,” misgivings about the reality of “safe” nuclear power, and the level of impact in reduction of greenhouse gasses. Greenpeace VP notes that
“combined commitments are likely to fall well short of what’s needed to limit warming to 1.5-2C above pre-industrial levels. The gap between these announced targets and a safer future should be the focus of negotiations ahead of Paris.”
While fulfillment of the commitment wouldn’t solve the worlds carbon problems, this announcement represents the most extensive and promising plan ever to emerge from China.