In an unprecedented day long conference on combating climate change at the United Nations attended by some 100 heads of state, key leaders like Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President Barack Obama have acknowledged that agreement is an important goal, but they also stressed their needs.
While negotiators are struggling for a deal to cut global emissions by December in Copenhagen, the United Nations organsers hope that the leaders present in the gathering will impart new political momentum to the talks.
Hu said that China had made great progress, but it still trailed behind in terms of its wealth per individual, and that had to be taken into account in fighting emissions.
“Due to their low development level and shortage of capital and technology, developing countries have limited capability and climate change,” he said.
Hu said that China would take four steps in direction of climate change, thought he did not give any specific numerical targets. He said that China would slash its carbon dioxice emissions by a “notable margin” by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, massively expand its forest size, enhance nuclear or non-fossil fuels to 15 per cent of power by 2020, and work to develop a green economy.
He did not clarify that China would deem the cuts obligatory, and also linked the emissions cuts to the growth in the country’s gross domestic product.
US President Barack Obama also reaffirmed his commitment to green growth. The world “cannot allow the old divisions that have characterised the climate debate for so many years to block our progress,” he said, adding that any kind of consensus on the issue would come slowly. He noted that the US and others had previously attempted to downplay the crisis but now recognized the gravity of the problem.
China followed by the United States are the largest emitters, accounting for about 40 per cent split evenly between them. The United States has said that its willingness to accept mandatory emissions requirements in hinged to domestic law and a new law, stalled by the health care debate, is awaiting Senate action.
Obama said that he was committed to making the largest-ever investment in renewable energy, new standards for reducing pollution from vehicles and making clean energy profitable. He said that developed nations must also provide financial and technical assistance to help the rest adapt to climate change.
Rajendra K Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned that current emissions trajectories were propelling the world toward the panel’s worst-case scenarios. “Science leaves us no space for inaction now,” he said.