Holes in China green plan

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  • Published 28.11.09

New Delhi, Nov. 27: China’s proclamation of plans to slow down its greenhouse gas emissions growth may intensify pressure on India to quantify its own actions but Beijing hasn’t given away anything yet, climate change analysts have said.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao announced on Thursday that China would cut emissions intensity by 40 per cent by 2020 — a day after President Barack Obama said he would call for a US emissions reduction target of 17 per cent below the 2005 levels by 2020.

The two announcements leave India as the only nation among the world’s top five emitters that has not yet quantified its actions on emissions.

“This will certainly increase the pressure on India to come up with numbers,” said Siddharth Pathak, a climate campaigner with the non-government environmental organisation Greenpeace.

India has announced plans to expand renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and promote energy-efficient buildings and public transport, but has not yet specified how such actions will influence India’s emissions growth patterns.

But climate and energy analysts point out that the Chinese announcement makes it clear that China’s emissions will continue to grow — only at a slower rate, but how much is achieved will depend on the rate at which its economy grows.

“Emissions intensity is the emissions produced per unit of economic output. China’s fast-growing economy means that absolute emissions will rise,” the World Resources Institute, a Washington DC think tank, said in a statement yesterday.

The US and Chinese announcements have bolstered hopes that an international agreement on emissions reduction could be finalised at a scheduled UN meeting on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, next month.

Analysts also said the Chinese target was voluntary.

“China has given nothing away,” said Prodipto Ghosh, a member of India’s climate change negotiating team. “It has not announced reductions in emissions, it has not indicated that the planned reduction in emissions intensity would be subject to any international monitoring or verification and it has not linked this proposed reduction to international consultations,” Ghosh told The Telegraph .

“It (China’s announcement) is nothing extraordinary,” said Kushal Yadav, a climate policy analyst at the non-government Centre for Science and Environment. “India’s emissions intensity is already lower than that of China’s — if it really wants to, India could make a similar announcement tomorrow,” Yadav said.

In recent weeks, India has come under increasing pressure to quantify how its climate change actions — such as its ambitious 20,000MW solar energy plan by 2022 — will help slow down the growth of its emissions.

The European Union — the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the US — has already unilaterally committed to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. Russia, the fourth-biggest emitter, has also said it would achieve similar cuts.

An independent analysis by Greenpeace suggests that India’s actions on renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transportation can lead to a 15 per cent to 18 per cent reduction from business-as-usual emissions scenario by 2020.

Brazil and Indonesia are among developing countries that have announced emissions reduction targets by 2020 — primarily through avoiding deforestation.