China's remarks on emissions peak 'encouraging'

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U.S. experts on Wednesday hailed Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli's remarks that China will strive to achieve a peak in its carbon emissions as early as possible as an "extremely encouraging" signal for achieving a global climate pact next year.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping's special envoy, Zhang told the UN Climate Summit in New York on Tuesday that China will announce post-2020 actions on climate change as soon as possible and that would include marked progress in reducing carbon intensity and bring about the peak of the country's total carbon dioxide emissions as early as possible.

The speech was welcomed by David Waskow, director of international climate initiative at the Washington-based World Resources Institute. He said Zhang's statement was "particularly important because it was the highest level signal sent by the Chinese government about an emissions peak."

"Setting a goal for a peak would be a significant step that would have important positive ramifications globally," Waskow told Xinhua.

He said that for China and also for all other countries, the question ahead is the negotiations next year and how this and other policies are put in concrete form, with clear timetables.

"For all countries, the rubber meets the road, as we say, with their offers early next year in the 2015 climate negotiations," Waskow said, adding that Tuesday's signal was "an extremely encouraging one".

The Climate Action Network and the Global Call for Climate Action expressed similar views.

"China should be commended for signaling its intention to peak emissions as soon as possible," the groups said in a joint statement.

"Such moves along with more ambitious actions by the U.S. -- which President Obama hinted at -- could accelerate negotiations towards the global climate agreement due next year."

John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, also told a House hearing last week that China is "taking far more action than most Americans realize".

"The Chinese, in their 12th five-year plan, put a target ... for increasing the percentage of non-fossil fuel in primary energy consumption. We, by the way, have not done that. We don't have a non-carbon or low-carbon energy standard," said Holdren, also assistant to the President for Science and Technology.

"And China is already on that pathway (towards larger emissions reductions) as well. In some respects, they're ahead of us," Holdren added.

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