China to 'take lead' on climate change

President Hu Jintao is expected to announce that China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, will take on tougher "carbon intensity" targets that will help to slow the growth of China's carbon footprint.

Expectations are rising that China's move could inject fresh impetus into the troubled negotiations to strike a new global climate change deal in Copenhagen in December.

Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, said he understood that China would make "an ambitious" statement at the summit which is being attended by more than 100 heads of state.

"This policy will make China become the world leader on climate change," de Boer said on the summit sidelines.

"I have very high expectations on what President Hu will be announcing," he added, explaining that the measures will "take Chinese emissions very significantly away from where they would have been without a climate policy."

Both President Hu and US President Barack Obama will address the special UN summit which comes amid reports that negotiations between developed nations and emerging economies like India and China are close to an impasse.

"If we don't move this week, there is a real risk that we will miss the opportunity in Copenhagen," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters after a speech in which he described UN talks as being "dangerously close to deadlock".

Campaigners hope that a bold announcement from China might also pave the way for Barack Obama to take on his critics in the US who remain sceptical that China and India in particular are doing enough to shoulder the burden of arresting global warming.

Martin Kaiser, climate policy director for environmental group Greenpeace International, said the president had allowed "vested interests" to undermine his promises so far.

"This is Obama's opportunity to be a global leader and signal to the rest of the world that the US will take on its fair share of the effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 years," Mr Kaiser said in a statement.

Despite the promise of fresh targets from China, deep international divisions remain on the climate change issue, with developing nations demanding more financial and technological assistance from rich-world countries to reduce emissions.

Although China is promising to impose tougher carbon intensity targets – reducing the amount of energy expended per unit of GDP – it has remained reluctant to commit to any absolute cuts in emissions.

Recent remarks by Chinese officials have suggest that China's emission could peak sometime between 2030 and 2040, but this would still entail a doubling of China's current emission levels in absolute terms.

China, for its part, is demanding that industrialised nations stick to the target laid down by the UN panel on climate change of a 40 per cent reduction in 1990 level emissions by 2020, a target which many analysts say is politically unrealistic.


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