China Reviews Climate Change Policies

The upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference 2011 (COP17), set to take place in Durban, South Africa, on 28 November to 9 December, has the world focused on this somewhat controversial issue – and China continues to be one of the hot topics for debate. Beijing has long maintained the stance that as pioneers of industrialization developed nations are responsible for the current circumstances facing the planet and should not expect poorer nations to commit to binding agreements to reduce emissions. As a prelude to the COP17, which has the slogan of “Working Together – Saving Tomorrow Today”, China has published a report detailing various aspects of government policy on climate change.

Recently released by the State Council Information Office of the Government of the Peoples’ Republic of China, the report titled China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change highlights some of the positive results achieved over the period of 2006 to 2010. One of the goals set in 2006 was to reduce its per-unit GDP energy consumption by twenty percent in the five year period, and China was the first developing country to go on record with a national program addressing climate change in 2007. In 2009, Chinese authorities proposed a plan of action that by 2020 the country will reduce the per-unit GDP greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 40 to 45 percent compared to the 2005 figures.

The report provides information on methods used to control greenhouse gas emissions, including industrial restructuring and energy restructuring in the form of energy conservation, and improvements in energy efficiency. A method employed to offset carbon emissions, and promoted by the Kyoto Protocol, is that of carbon sinks. These are either natural or artificial reservoirs that remove carbon dioxide in a process known as carbon sequestration. This is done naturally by the earth’s oceans and terrestrial vegetation, but can also be done with various methods of carbon capture and storage.

While China has indicated that it is opposed to signing binding commitments regarding carbon emissions, it supports scientific research into climate change, has adapted laws and policies to take climate change issues into account and is actively promoting “green” products and services – an economic sector that has enormous potential for growth, both on a domestic and international level. Many of these points will no doubt be on the agenda for discussion as China participates in the COP17 talks in Durban, South Africa.