Xi 'to make major pledge on climate change'

US President Barack Obama (right) and President of China Xi Jinping (left) walk down the Colonnade to hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, DC, on Sept 25, 2015.
US President Barack Obama (right) and President of China Xi Jinping (left) walk down the Colonnade to hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, DC, on Sept 25, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

Chinese leader to commit to cap-and-trade scheme to curb emissions, say US officials

WASHINGTON • President Xi Jinping of China was expected to make a landmark commitment yesterday to start a national programme in 2017 that will limit and put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, Obama administration officials said on Thursday.

The move to create a so-called cap-and-trade system would be a substantial step by the world's largest polluter to reduce emissions from major industries, including steel, cement, paper and electric power. The announcement, due to come during a White House summit meeting with President Barack Obama, is part of an ambitious effort by China and the United States to use their leverage internationally to tackle climate change and to pressure other nations to do the same.

Joining forces on the issue even as they are bitterly divided on others, Mr Obama and Mr Xi will spotlight the shared determination of the leaders of the world's two largest economies to forge a climate change accord in Paris in December that commits every country to curbing its emissions.

Mr Xi's pledge underscores China's intention to act quickly and upends what has long been a potent argument among Republicans against acting on climate change: that the United States' most powerful economic competitor has not done so.

Domestic and external pressures have driven the Chinese government to take firmer action to curb emissions from fossil fuels, especially coal. Growing public anger about the noxious air that often envelops Beijing and many other Chinese cities has prompted the government to introduce restrictions on coal and other sources of smog, with the side benefit of reducing carbon dioxide pollution.

The Chinese authorities also see economic benefits in reducing fossil fuel usage. The cap-and-trade initiative builds on a deal Mr Obama and Mr Xi reached last year in Beijing, where both set steep emissions-reduction targets as a precursor to the global climate accord.

Mr Obama, who made climate change a signature issue of his presidency, announced the centrepiece of his plan this year.

In his announcement yesterday, Mr Xi was to outline how he will halt the growth of China's emissions by 2030.

"It increases our probability of succeeding, and it increases the likelihood that we will have a more robust agreement" in Paris, a senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because officials were not authorised to preview the agreement.

The climate deal was a substantial, if rare, bright spot in a wide- ranging summit meeting that was expected to be dominated by potential sources of friction between Mr Obama and Mr Xi.

Meanwhile, leading cities and regions on Thursday promised ambitious cuts to emissions blamed for climate change, hoping to boost efforts for a global deal. The commitment was the latest in a series of pledges during a week of climate events in New York aimed at building momentum for a year-end conference in Paris that seeks to draft a landmark UN agreement.

Mexico City, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver and the regions around Kathmandu and Manchester, England, were among the new signatories to the "Under 2 MOU" agreement launched last year. Existing participants include Los Angeles and California.

While the declaration was designed as a regional movement, three countries also joined the commitment to keeping temperature rises to no more than 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels - Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Xi 'to make major pledge on climate change''. Print Edition | Subscribe