China Ready To Limit Carbon Emissions Following US Pressure, EU Help

  • Published on May 7th, 2009

China has indicated that it is willing to give ground on the issue of reduction of its carbon emissions. First indications of change in China’s stance on this issue were noticed by the British Climate Secretary Ed Miliband during his visit to Beijing.


The change in China’s stand on the issue of controlling its carbon emissions came after President Obama admitted that the United States has a historical responsibility for reducing carbon emissions and promised bold actions to do the same. President Obama has already set a goal of 14 percent reduction in US’ carbon emissions by 2020 from 1990 levels apart from the billions of dollars of investment plans in renewable energy.

China, the world’s largest polluter, had maintained that the developed nations must do more to reduce their carbon emissions before asking the developing nations to join any mandatory emission cuts deal. And with EU, which has a 20 percent reduction goal by 2020, and now US promising to cut emissions China had no other arguments left. Still the Chinese officials maintain that the developing countries must go for ambitious reduction goals while the developing countries are allowed to opt for smaller but significant reductions.

China has always maintained that it would require monetary and technical help to reduce the carbon emissions from its industrial sector. China is the biggest beneficiary of the Clean Development Mechanism and receives investments for green projects by selling emission rights to developed countries. Now the developed nations have come forward with more assistance for China.

Britain will now help China on carbon capture technique and, in return, accepts it to agree to some kind of voluntary emissions reductions. China already has some start ups working on capturing carbon and recycling it.

The European Union, too, has come up with a new proposal for the developing countries to help them reduce their carbon emissions without facing the risk of penalties. Under the proposed plan, developing countries would set voluntary emission targets for carbon-intensive industries like cement and steel and would try to keep emissions below that limit. If they succeed in doing so they can sell emission rights to other countries and generate revenue. There will not be any penalties, however, if the industries exceed the emission limits.

The proposal also heeds to one of the demands of the developing countries, that is, providing financial assistance before the calculation of emissions saved. The developing countries could sell credits from the beginning and would have to buy them back if their industries exceed the emission limits.

India Next?

With China and United States, the two largest polluters, promising some kind of action to tackle the problem of carbon emissions, the spotlight of sorts now turns to India. India resistance to international pressure to reduce emissions drew strength from the Chinese stand. And after China overtook the United States to become the largest polluter it was only a matter of time when the two Asian neighbors were started to be seen as two separate entities rather than a single opposing force to an international agreement.

Possibly learning from the failed the Doha round of WTO talks, the United States decided to break this partnership and deal only with China, isolating it from other developing nations. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited China and no other country to discuss the emissions issue and went on to say that her administration was willing to give importance to trade and climate change over human rights issues in China.

Change in approach from the developed nations led by the United States has put tremendous pressure on developing countries to change their stance on controlling their carbon emissions and agree to an international agreement. The United States and EU have worked well together to isolate China from others and disassociate it from the group of advanced developing countries, like India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa, which was hard to negotiate with.

The key to an international agreement is a concentrated approach to reducing carbon emissions. The deal should target industrial emissions in the developing countries while providing them incentives and financial help to acquire clean technologies. Whereas the developed nations should work on reducing their domestic emissions which are four to five times those of India and China.

Image: kilroy238 (Creative Commons)

About the Author

currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.