China Introduces Groundbreaking Cap on Emissions Starting in 2016

A day after the U.S Environmental Protection Agency introduced a proposal that would cut carbon emissions, He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, announced that China will put a cap on emissions beginning in 2016.  As the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, China’s cap on emissions poses as a major step in tackling the issue of global climate change.  

Jiankun states that China’s carbon emissions would most likely continue to grow and eventually come to a peak in 2030.  According to Jiankun, China’s absolute cap on emissions will be included in their next five-year plan beginning in 2016.

According to the UK’s Guardian, this will be the first time a country has put an absolute limit on emissions. 

Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate policy at University College London, tells Reuters “The Chinese announcement marks potentially the most important turning point in the global scene on climate change for a decade.”

In 2009, China set its first ever carbon targets to cut emissions relative to its economic growth, by 40-45% by 2020.  This meant that China’s carbon emissions could still increase as their economy grew.  According to Reuters, this absolute cap set by China means carbon emissions will be tightly regulated.

Until China works out the details of the five-year plan, it remains unclear at what level the cap would be set.

China’s cap on emissions is a potential breakthrough in the issue of climate change.  Focus now turns to Bonn in Germany where negotiators from over 190 nations will meet, beginning today, for the latest 10-day round of talks in a process meant to lead to a new global climate treaty in Paris in December 2015.

According to USA Today, in Paris, the United Nations is seeking to adopt a legally binding agreement on emissions that will cover all nations.

With the United States and China being the biggest emitters in the world, China’s cap on emissions coupled with the Obama Administrations steps to cut carbon emissions increases growing optimism surrounding international climate change.

"The China-US one is a key trust relationship (in climate talks) and if they are rising above that it sends a very powerful signal to the rest of the world to get serious," said John Connor, CEO of Melbourne-based The Climate Institute. 

By EDN Intern Leah Ford