China Vows Climate Change Action
source : BBC News Staff BBC News Website
China vows climate change action
Hu Jintao: "We endeavour to cut carbon dioxide emissions...by a notable margin"
China will increase efforts to improve energy efficiency and cut CO2 emissions, President Hu Jintao has told a UN climate change summit in New York.
Mr Hu said the measures would mean emissions would grow less quickly than the economy, but gave no details.
The US, the world's other major emitter, said China's proposals were helpful but figures were needed.
About 100 leaders are attending the talks, ahead of the Copenhagen summit which is due to approve a new treaty.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said failure to agree a treaty in December would be "morally inexcusable".
Negotiators for the Copenhagen summit are trying to agree on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol to limit carbon emissions.
Mr Ban called the meeting an attempt to inject momentum into the deadlocked climate talks.
Shirong Chen, BBC China analyst
Change from Beijing is partly a reaction to international criticism as China becomes the world's biggest polluter.
The country's rapid economic growth has created demand for more energy and fuel. There is a growing need for Beijing to provide clear answers on what is being done to deal with the problem.
Image-conscious Chinese officials want to be seen as co-operative internationally and accept that China must become part of the solution to major global issues such as the financial crisis and climate change.
China's climate policy shift
"Your decisions will have momentous consequences," he told the assembled leaders.
"The fate of future generations, and the hopes and livelihoods of billions today, rest, literally, with you," he added.
The Chinese president said his country's cuts would be measured by unit of Gross Domestic Product.
He also pledged to "vigorously develop" renewable and nuclear energy.
He restated China's position that developed nations needed to do more than developing nations to fight climate change because they were historically responsible for the problem.
"Developed countries should fulfill the task of emission reduction set in the Kyoto Protocol, continue to undertake substantial mid-term quantified emission reduction targets and support developing countries in countering climate change," he said.
A US official said that China's proposals were helpful but Beijing needed to provide figures.
"It depends on what the number is," US President Barack Obama's climate change envoy Todd Stern said, quoted by Reuters news agency.
In his speech to the meeting earlier, Mr Obama said Americans understood the gravity of the climate threat and were determined to act, but there was much more work to be done.
TUESDAY (all times GMT)
1430 - Obama talks with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
1500 - Obama meets Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
1530 - trilateral talks
1300 - General debate begins
1330 - Obama's speech
1200 - Obama chairs UN Security Council meeting
UN Assembly: Key Issues
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"If we are flexible and pragmatic; if we can resolve to work tirelessly in common effort, then we will achieve our common purpose: a world that is safer, cleaner, and healthier than the one we found; and a future that is worthy of our children," he said.
According to the BBC's UN correspondent, Barbara Plett, discussions have stalled because rich nations are not pledging to cut enough carbon to take the world out of danger, while poorer countries are refusing to commit to binding caps, saying this would prevent them from developing their economies.
China's role is crucial, because it is both an emerging economy and a big polluter, our correspondent says.
Despite all its advances in green technology, China still gets 70% of its energy from coal - and as its economy increases, this means yet more growth in greenhouse gases, our correspondent says.
Pressure on US
There is also concern about the US.
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Challenge to developed world
President Obama has recognised climate change as a pressing issue, unlike the previous administration, our UN correspondent says.
He has already announced a target of returning to 1990 levels of greenhouse emissions by 2020, but critics say Washington is moving too slowly on legislation which does not go far enough.
President Obama is currently dogged by domestic issues such as the economy and healthcare reforms, but his speech to the UN meeting will still be watched for signs he is willing to fulfil his pledge to take the lead in reaching a global carbon deal.
A demonstration of political will by both China and the US will be important in breaking the deadlock in negotiations, correspondents say.
China and the US each account for about 20% of the world's greenhouse gas pollution from coal, natural gas and oil.
The European Union is responsible for 14%, followed by Russia and India with 5% each.