China's climate deal efforts driven by pollution problem at home

BEIJING -- China's push for a global climate pact was due in part to its own increasingly pressing need to solve serious environmental problems, observers said Sunday.

See Full Article

China, the world's biggest source of climate-changing gases, was blamed for obstructing the last high-level climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. This time around, it sent strong political signals it wanted a deal ahead of and during the Paris negotiations that ended Saturday with the agreement to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) between now and 2100.

"Environmental issues have become much more important to the Chinese public and therefore to the Chinese government," said Dimitri de Boer, head of China Carbon Forum, a Beijing-based non-profit organization.

Since 2009, the public has gone from not knowing much or caring about environmental issues "and mainly being focused on wanting to make some money, to now being very concerned with environmental issues and taking that on par with wanting to make money," he said.

China's cities are among the world's dirtiest after three decades of explosive economic growth that led to construction of hundreds of coal-fired power plants and an increase in car ownership.

China was reminded of its severe environmental challenges during the Paris conference when the capital, Beijing, issued its first red alert for pollution under a two-year system because of heavy smog. The city ordered limits on vehicles, factories and construction sites and told schools to close.

China pushed for a deal because of its own problems and because the effects of climate change are becoming clearer each year, said Dr. Jiang Kejun, senior researcher at the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning agency.

The message on climate change "is very clear -- we must do something -- and in the meantime the domestic policymaking process is getting more environment-oriented," Jiang said. The air pollution in Beijing is putting pressure on policymakers and China is moving toward a low-carbon economy anyway, he said.

To build momentum for a deal, China and the United States, the world's two biggest carbon emitters, last year set a 2030 deadline for emissions to stop rising. This June, Beijing promised to cut carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 65 per cent from 2005 levels.

In September, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $3.1 billion to help developing countries combat climate change.

"That's huge," said de Boer. "They may well be a developing country, but they are also clearly ready to start supporting the least-developed countries in terms of their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts."

Xi attended the opening ceremony of the Paris conference two weeks ago along with other leaders -- and made a last-ditch effort in phone talks with President Barack Obama on Friday to get a global deal, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency. He told Obama that their countries needed to work together to ensure an agreement was reached "in the interest of the international community," Xinhua said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that China's push for a successful conclusion to the Paris negotiations "fully shows that China is dealing with climate change issues as a responsible big country."

Beijing came under criticism for obstructing the 2009 Copenhagen talks when some participants complained China and India stymied global emissions reduction efforts, possibly for fear they might hamper economic growth.

Now, the world's second-largest economy has emerged as a leader in curbing greenhouse gas emissions by investing in solar, wind and hydro power and even reducing its coal consumption last year as it attempts to clean up its polluted cities.

It is also already nurturing more self-sustaining growth as it refocuses its economy away from energy-hungry heavy industry to consumer spending and technology and making energy efficiency gains.

Dr. Olivia Gippner, a climate politics researcher at the London School of Economics, said that China's actions in the run-up to the conference indicated that it had "a very high willingness to do something," which sent an important signal to other countries.

"It was like an opener for the overall negotiations to go forward," she said.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Mexican experts rush to inspect quake-damaged buildings

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY -- In quake-stricken Mexico City, hundreds of architects and engineers are rushing to do triage, diagnose and classify some very worrisome patients: the thousands of buildings that suffered cracks of varying size and seriousness in the 7.1 magnitude quake that struck on Sept. Source
  • U.S. flies bomber, fighter mission off North Korean coast

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- In a show of American military might to North Korea, the United States on Saturday flew bombers and fighter escorts to the farthest point north of the Demilitarized Zone by any such American aircraft this century. Source
  • 'Hysteria is starting to spread': Humanitarian crisis grows in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A humanitarian crisis grew Saturday in Puerto Rico as towns were left without fresh water, fuel, power or phone service following Hurricane Maria’s devastating passage across the island. A group of anxious mayors arrived in the capital to meet with Gov. Source
  • Dozens of sea turtles back in Georgia after Irma evacuation

    World News CTV News
    JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. - Dozens of sick, injured and newborn sea turtles are back in their tanks on the Georgia coast after evacuating nearly 725 kilometres to escape from Hurricane Irma. The Brunswick News reports the 29 turtles and 50 hatchlings being cared for at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island came home Wednesday after taking shelter from the storm at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. Source
  • RCMP inks deal to return Louis Riel artifacts to Métis people

    Canada News CBC News
    The federal government has officially agreed to return a series of artifacts connected to Métis leader Louis Riel, which are currently housed in the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina, to the Métis people. At the Manitoba Métis Federation annual general assembly in Winnipeg on Saturday, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brosseau and MMF president David Chartrand signed a memorandum of understanding for the return of the artifacts. Source
  • Bridge to be renamed for late sons of marathon bombing hero

    World News CTV News
    BOSTON -- A small bridge in Boston is being renamed in honour of the late sons of one of the citizen heroes that emerged from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker will join Carlos Arredondo and his wife, Victoria Foley, at the Thursday renaming of the Jamaica Way Bridge for their sons, Alexander and Brian Arredondo. Source
  • Syria says victory is in sight over terrorists

    World News CTV News
    Syria's foreign minister told world leaders Saturday that his country is "marching steadily" toward the goal of rooting out terrorism -- and "victory is now within reach." Walid Al-Moualem pointed to "the liberation of Aleppo and Palmyra," the end to the siege of Deir el-Zour by the Islamic State extremist group, "and the eradication of terrorism from many parts of Syria" by the Syrian army and its supporters and allies, including Russia and Iran. Source
  • Powerless Puerto Rico's storm crisis deepens with dam threatening to fail

    World News CBC News
    Puerto Rican officials have been unable to communicate with more than half the towns in the U.S. territory as they rush to evacuate tens of thousands of people downstream of a failing dam, and as the massive scale of the disaster wrought by Hurricane Maria starts to become clear. Source
  • New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, toppling already damaged homes and a highway bridge and causing new alarm in a country reeling from two even more powerful quakes this month that together have killed nearly 400 people. Source
  • NFL responds to Donald Trump's call to fire players who take a knee during anthem

    World News Toronto Sun
    HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — President Donald Trump says National Football League owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he’s encouraging spectators to walk out in protest. In an extended riff during a freewheeling rally speech in Alabama Friday night, Trump also bemoaned that football games have become less violent. Source