UN praises China, US for ‘highly significant’ announcement on emissions cuts

12 November 2014

The new measures announced by the Governments of China and the United States in addressing their greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades is a positive step towards achieving a more comprehensive accord at a global climate conference to be held in Paris next year, top United Nations officials have confirmed.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the “significant and timely announcement” – pronounced by US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the tail-end of a high-level meeting in Beijing – and thanked the two leaders for their “personal commitment to work together to remove any impediments to reaching an agreement in Paris.”

“China and the United States have demonstrated the leadership that the world expects of them,” said Mr. Ban, in a statement attributable to his spokesperson.

“This leadership demonstrated by the Governments of the world’s two largest economies will give the international community an unprecedented chance to succeed at reaching a meaningful, universal agreement in 2015.”

In their announcement, the Presidents of the world’s two largest economies and the biggest greenhouse gas emitters declared they would aim for a considerable reduction in their emissions within a post-2020 framework.

The US, for instance, said it would reduce its emissions by a range of between 26 per cent and 28 per cent by 2025 from its 2005 levels in order to achieve what it described as economy-wide reductions on the order of 80 per cent by 2050. For its part, China announced it would peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030—with the intention to try and peak early—including through a far greater role for renewable energies and big improvements in areas like energy efficiency.

The joint statement comes in the wake of the European Union’s announcement to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 which it made last month.

The world’s efforts to clamp down on climate change will converge on Paris at the end of 2015 as Member States gather at the 21st annual session of the UN Climate Change Conference with the ultimate goal being the formulation of a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change, in line with the second implementation phase of the landmark Kyoto Protocol.

With the “positive commitments” made by Government, business, finance, and civil society leaders at the Climate Summit at UN Headquarters in September, followed by the “ambitious decision” taken by European Union leaders on their post-2020 emission reduction target in October, Mr. Ban voiced hope that “the highly significant” joint announcement by China and the United States would lay “a strong foundation” and build momentum towards a meaningful climate agreement in 2015.

As a result, his statement concluded, the Secretary-General urged “all countries, especially all major economies, to follow China and the United States’ lead and announce ambitious post-2020 targets as soon as possible, but no later than the first quarter of 2015.”

The dangers posed by climate change have been characterized as being increasingly imminent by a number of UN agencies and officials. In its recent Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in fact, confirmed that climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.

Greeting the announcement by China and the US in a separate statement, Christiana Figueres, Executive Director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), suggested that both leaders had cleared “important pathways towards a better and more secure future for human-kind.”

“This joint announcement provides both practical and political momentum towards a new, universal climate agreement in Paris in late 2015 that is meaningful, forward-looking and recognizes that combating climate change is not a five or ten year plan—but is a long term commitment to keep a global temperature rise under 2 degrees throughout this century,” Ms. Figueres declared.

“This positive momentum opens the door for all major economies and in particular all other industrialized nations to bring forward their contributions to the Paris agreement in a timely fashion over the coming months. Investors have long called for policy certainty,” she continued.

“Today’s announcement is a firm and positive step towards that as we look towards Paris 2015.”

Parties to the UNFCCC will next meet in Lima, Peru in a few weeks’ time to advance a draft universal agreement with the aim of adopting it at the 21st Conference of the Parties taking place in Paris, France at the end of next year.


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