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By Julian Wong Nov.26.2009
In: climate change

China to adopt "binding" goal to reduce CO2 emissions per unit GDP by 40 to 45% of 2005 levels by 2020

* Update Nov 28: additional commentary below by Yu Qingtai on issue of “measurable, reportable and verifiable”
* Update Nov 29: Rough calculations on what the goal means for total emissions by 2020.

So what is a “notable margin“?  That question has apparently been answered today.

Today, the State Council announced that China will commit to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP, or carbon intensity, by 40 to 45 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.  It was also announced separately by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Premier Wen Jiabao (also the chair of the State Council, and pictured right, showing what President Hu meant by a “notable margin”…at least in my imagination) will attend the Copenhagen climate conference that begins in less than two weeks.

According to a government press release (Chinese only), these targets would be “binding” to its national economic and social development and long-term plans, and correspondingly, and mechanisms for  internal statistical gathering, monitoring and verification will be formulated:


On the that that American celebrates Thanksgiving, should the world give thanks to China, or should it deem these new targets as just one big turkey?  Let’s unpack the implications of this announcement.

Will it be enough?

The first thing to be clear on is that a carbon intensity target does not reduce absolute emissions.  It is keyed to per unit GDP, so in a growing economy, absolute emissions can still increase.

But is a 40 to 45% reduction in carbon intensity of 2005 levels by 2020 by itself meaningful?  Many seem to think Read the full story