China Makes Landmark Pledge to Cap Emissions

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China Makes Landmark Pledge to Cap Emissions

Announcement comes on heels of US proposal for caps on power plant emissions

Power plants in China. (Photo: Clay Gilliland/cc/flickr)

Power plants in China. (Photo: Clay Gilliland/cc/flickr)

China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, announced Tuesday it will put a cap on emissions starting in 2016.

He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, made the announcement at a conference in Beijing, Reuters reported.

As the UK's Guardian noted, it is the first time the country has put an absolute limit on emissions, as opposed to a reduction in emissions relative to growth.

From Reuters:

"The Chinese announcement marks potentially the most important turning point in the global scene on climate change for a decade," said Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate policy at University College London.

It is not clear at what level the cap would be set, and a final number is unlikely to be released until China has worked out more details of the five-year plan, possibly sometime next year.

He told Reuters that China's emissions would peak in 2030 if the nation met its nuclear power capacity goal and reduced its coal consumption. Yet the country is also committing to continued reliance on natural gas.

Last month, China sealed a 30-year, $400 billion natural gas deal with Russia.

The agreement would make China Russia's second biggest natural gas market.

"If the European market was a question mark before the Ukrainian crisis, now with sanctions, Putin needed China even more," Morena Skalamera, a fellow at the Geopolitics of Energy Project at Harvard, told the New York Times.

The emissions limit declaration from China comes a day after the U.S. announced new power plant emissions standards, which many environmental groups welcomed as step forward but not aggressive enough to deal with climate impacts.

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