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China At Durban: First Steps Toward a New Climate Agreement

The UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa, concluded over the weekend with a consensus to negotiate an agreement that will include all major emitters of warming gases. The conference agreed to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, extended the work of the group for Long-term Cooperative Action, and most significantly established new negotiations under the Durban Platform. Launching these negotiations was hailed as major progress around the world (Bloomberg, The Statesman, Xinhua). For the first time the world’s three major emitters (by total amount of greenhouse gases emitted), China, the United States and India, have agreed to begin negotiations for an international “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force,” indicating that there will be actions and efforts by all countries. (For the implications of this complex legal wording, see my colleague Jake Werksman’s discussion on WRI Insights).

Chinese experts discuss absolute emissions limits in Durban

The idea of a total cap on energy consumption in China, first suggested last March before the National People’s Congress has reemerged in Durban, and surprisingly there are now suggestions that China might consider some kind of a cap on carbon emissions. This has been suggested apparently as part of domestic policy rather than as a negotiating position, but details are very sketchy.

Propelling the Durban climate talks - China announces willingness to consider legally binding commitments post-2020

When China launched its first official pavilion at a UN climate conference on Sunday, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat Cristiana Figueres was there alongside China’s NDRC Vice Minister Xie Zhenhua to cut the ribbon. Swarmed by journalists in the standing-room only conference center of the China pavilion in Durban, Figueres applauded China for being a “trend-setter” in global renewable energy, resonating around the world and during the first week of climate negotiations in Durban.

Bridging Gaps in Durban: What Can China do?

Interview with China energy expert Jiang Kejun, Energy Research Institute, NDRC

As the first week of the UN climate negotiations in Durban are underway, one of the most persistent themes has been how to bridge gaps - the divide between the developed and developing countries, many of whom disagree about whether the Kyoto Protocol should be extended into a second commitment period; the hole in climate finance pledges from developed countries; and the ambition or emissions gap between the Copenhagen pledges and the stabilization of global temperatures below a 2 degrees Celsius increase from pre-industrial levels.

Looking to Durban: China’s Climate Change Policy Progress Since Cancun

As its negotiators head to Durban, South Africa for the next round of the UNFCCC climate negotiations, China can point to significant progress in domestic climate policy since the Cancun negotiations a year ago. March, 2011 saw the adoption of China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, binding domestically China’s first phase of its Copenhagen and Cancun commitments to reduce its carbon intensity 40 to 45 percent by 2020. In this first year of the new Five Year Plan, China also adopted a number of specific climate-related implementation measures (For a more exhaustive list, see China’s just published White Paper on its climate change activities).

China, US, other APEC Leaders Sign Commitment to Slash Tariffs on Green Goods and Services

At the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hawaii last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao joined US President Obama and other APEC leaders in signing a pledge to cut tariffs on an undesignated list of environmental goods and services to 5 percent by 2015. APEC members also pledged to eliminate domestic content requirements on goods and services by 2012. Together, the 21 APEC economies account for 60 percent of global trade in environmental goods and services, and the global market for environmental technologies in 2008 represented $782 billion, with nearly $300 billion in the US, according to a US Commerce Department estimate. A spokesman for one organization representing US manufacturers hailed the commitment as a “huge” outcome. Read the full story at Reuters

Chinese Air Pollution Update: Ministry of Environmental Protection Proposes Additional Regulation for Particulates

Just last week the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) announced public consultation for new regulations that would establish a standard for small particulate matter (PM 2.5), an important public health advance. China’s official media outlet Xinhua reported the new standard, which MEP proposes bringing into effect nationwide by 2016, and that Shanghai believes its monitoring capacity is sufficiently ahead of this timeline to implement as early as next year. We have heard elsewhere that Beijing, too, is likely to move earlier than 2016. MEP’s announcement and an FAQ describing the policy are already on the web in Chinese, but the English-language website has not yet been updated. The Xinhua report also noted the importance of public pressure in bringing about environmental improvements.