A Green Step For Humanity

Under the headline: "Absolute emissions cap proposed for China",  Australia's Business Spectator reports that "According to local Chinese media, the government’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has proposed that China adopt an absolute cap on its greenhouse gas emissions by 2016."

RT (TV-Novosti) asks "Is China Going Green?" and notes that the initiative "must now be approved by the Cabinet before it is enacted."

Given that the cuts are a proposal which has been presented to the Chinese government, the Independent's headline:"China agrees to impose carbon targets by 2016" is somewhat premature.  The Independent goes on to say:"“Such an important move should encourage all countries, and particularly the other large emitters such as the United States, to take stronger action on climate change."

At this point one might expect the usual uninformed comments which may be found across the web: on the one side to the effect - for various unscientific reasons - that global warming is nothing to worry about and on the other that the U.S. is never going to 'do something' about global warming.  Both arguments would be quite wrong.

China and the U.S. have already entered into a joint agreement on the need to address global warming.

From the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), People's Republic of China:

Joint U.S.-China Statement on Climate Change

The United States of America and the People's Republic of China recognize that the increasing dangers presented by climate change measured against the inadequacy of the global response requires a more focused and urgent initiative. The two sides have been engaged in constructive discussions through various channels over several years bilaterally and multilaterally, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process and the Major Economies Forum. In addition, both sides consider that the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate change constitutes a compelling call to action crucial to having a global impact on climate change.

That last point bears repeating: "both sides consider that the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate change constitutes a compelling call to action ..."

The joint statement goes on to state:
The two countries took special note of the overwhelming scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change and its worsening impacts, including the sharp rise in global average temperatures over the past century, the alarming acidification of our oceans, the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, and the striking incidence of extreme weather events occurring all over the world.  Both sides recognize that, given the latest scientific understanding of accelerating climate change and the urgent need to intensify global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, forceful, nationally appropriate action by the United States and China - including large-scale cooperative action - is more critical than ever.  Such action is crucial both to contain climate change and to set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world.  

In order to achieve this goal of elevating the climate change challenge as a higher priority, the two countries will initiate a Climate Change Working Group in anticipation of the 2013 Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED).  In keeping with the vision shared by the leaders of the two countries, the Working Group will begin immediately to determine and finalize ways in which they can advance cooperation on technology, research, conservation, and alternative and renewable energy. They will place this initiative on a faster track through the S&ED next slated to meet this summer. The Working Group will be led by Mr. Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change and Mr. Xie Zhenhua, Vice Chairman, the National Development and Reform Commission.   The purpose of the Climate Change Working Group will be to make preparations for the S&ED by taking stock of existing cooperation related to climate change, and the potential to enhance such efforts through the appropriate ministerial channels; and by identifying new areas for concrete, cooperative action to foster green and low-carbon economic growth, including through the use of public-private partnerships, where appropriate.  The Climate Change Working Group should include relevant government ministries and will present its findings to the Special Representatives of the leaders for the S&ED at their upcoming meeting.

Both sides also noted the significant and mutual benefits of intensified action and cooperation on climate change, including enhanced energy security, a cleaner environment, and more abundant natural resources.  They also reaffirmed that working together both in the multilateral negotiation and to advance concrete action on climate change can serve as a pillar of the bilateral relationship, build mutual trust and respect, and pave the way for a stronger overall collaboration. Both sides noted a common interest in developing and deploying new environmental and clean energy technologies that promote economic prosperity and job creation while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In light of previous joint statements, existing arrangements, and ongoing work, both sides agree that it is essential to enhance the scale and impact of cooperation on climate change, commensurate with the growing urgency to deal with our shared climate challenges.

It is heartening to think that we are moving from the pot calling the kettle black to " the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world."

NASA images from: