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Confronting Climate Change
By Zhang Zhiping | NO. 50 DECEMBER 10, 2015


All eyes are on Paris this month to see if a post-2020 legally binding and universal agreement can be reached to confront climate change and its disastrous effects.

As the international climate change conference began on November 30, approximately 150 world leaders met to discuss solutions with which societies treat the environment.

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at the opening ceremony in which he advocated for the establishment of an equitable and reasonable prevention and cure mechanism for climate change based on mutually beneficial cooperation.

Confronting changing climate has become a global challenge which concerns all humans' interests and well-being. It is a war that necessitates the whole world to make a joint effort. Since the 1992 adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Brazil's Earth Summit, countries worldwide have carried out strenuous negotiations in order to combat climate change.

A consensus has yet to be reached with regards to the duties that can be shared by developing and developed countries. How can the historic, economic and legal burdens be distributed throughout all of the world's countries fairly whilst taking into account their respective national conditions and interests?

Attempts were made at the UN Climate Change Conferences following the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, but the results were disappointing. Worse yet, the rapid growth of some developing countries has spurred their developed counterparts to avoid taking emission reduction measures in order to retain their competitive economic edges. The United States, for example, disengaged from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, therefore greatly thwarting worldwide efforts against global warming.

In accordance to the basic principles of the "common but differentiated responsibilities" set out in the UNFCCC, China is exempt from the restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions prescribed by the Kyoto Protocol for 2020 as a developing country. However, China has taken voluntary measures to reduce emissions in a bid to transform its growth model, restructure the economy and shoulder its responsibility as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

This June, China pledged to reach its peak on carbon dioxide emissions by around 2030. It also vowed to increase the proportion of non-fossil fuels being consumed for energy to 20 percent and has agreed to increase its forest stock volume by 4.5 billion cubic meters compared to 2005 levels.

It is estimated that China's annual rate of decline in carbon dioxide intensity will have to be maintained between 3.6 to 4.1 percent between 2005 and 2030 in order to reach the aforementioned emission reduction target. It is worth noting that the rate was only 2.3 percent for the United States since 1990, 3 percent for the UK and 2.5 percent for Germany.

China has set out ambitious goals for combating climate change. For instance, it plans to establish the carbon emissions trading system in 2017. Confronting climate change was included in the draft 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), the country's economic and social development plan.

China has also taken an active part in global climate talks and promoted the signing of new climate deals. The China-U.S. Joint Announcement on Climate Change signed last year and the China-U.S. Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change inked this year are both evidences of practical cooperation in this area. Additionally, China has published joint statements on climate change with India, Brazil, the EU and France. This September, China launched the South-South Cooperation Fund on Climate Change and pledged $20 million to support other developing countries in their fight against global warming.

On the same day as the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, most of north China was shrouded in thick smog once again, underscoring the necessity of green development for the country. China is committed to exploring a low-carbon path suited to its current conditions and reaching equilibrium between humans and nature.

It is highly probable that the ongoing meeting in Paris will come up with an international agreement on climate change and therefore take an important step in promoting global climate governance. Nevertheless, as Xi said in the opening ceremony, the agreement isn't the end but rather the beginning.

Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan

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