China and the US have both pledged to lead action against climate change, with the former promising for the first time to set targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts.
Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli said yesterday that by 2020, China hopes to reduce its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 45% from 2005 levels.
Meanwhile, US president Barack Obama admitted that the two countries “have a responsibility to lead“, but added that all countries must follow.
The two largest national carbon emitters announced their commitment at a UN summit convened in New York on Tuesday to pave the way for success in a crucial climate conference next year. In Paris, late in 2015, nations will attempt to thrash out a binding accord to prevent climate chaos.
More than 120 world leaders gathered at the UN, alongside representatives of NGOs, businesses and members of the civil society.
Before the assorted audience, Zhang pledged that China would endeavour to make sure its total carbon emissions peak “as soon as possible”.
“As a responsible major country, a major developing country, China will make even greater effort to address climate change,” Zhang said.
“All countries need to follow the path of green and low carbon development that suits their national conditions, [and] set forth post-2020 actions.”
According to a study published this week, China is now responsible for around 30% of global emissions, surpassing even the EU’s cumulative contribution.
However, the Chinese government has launched many ambitious actions to tackle the problem, becoming a world leader in renewable energy investment, urging citizens to live more sustainably and confirming plans to pursue a national carbon market.
Speaking before Zhang, Obama said the US would “embrace [its] responsibility” but added, “Nobody gets a pass.”
Obama, who recently pushed through new legislation to cut pollution from US power plants, urged all nations to get behind the climate agenda.
“We will do our part, and we’ll help developing nations do theirs,” he said.
In an unprecedented social demonstration, on Sunday around 600,000 people took to the streets in events around the world, to demand that delegates in New York end decades of inaction.
“People around the world are tired of waiting for our politicians to act,” said Payal Parekh, global managing director of 350.org, one of the organisers of the People’s Climate March.
“From the islands of the Pacific to the streets of New York City, we’re demanding action, not words. We’re showing what real leadership looks like.”
Photo: UN DPI NGO via Twitter