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China pollution

China will meet 2020 carbon reduction target, Xie Zhenhua says

China’s chief negotiator at the Paris Agreement speaks in Hong Kong after receiving Lui Che Wo prize for efforts to tackle climate change

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 October, 2017, 9:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 October, 2017, 11:06pm

China is on track to fulfil or possibly surpass its commitment of cutting its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020, the country’s chief negotiator at the Paris Agreement has said.

Xie Zhenhua said in Hong Kong on Tuesday that despite the United States’ planned withdrawal from the agreement, China’s commitment to fight climate change is unwavering.

China has already cut its carbon intensity – the amount of carbon emissions per unit of GDP growth – by 39 per cent this year while sustaining economic growth, said Xie, who is also former head of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

“There should be no problems meeting the 40 to 45 per cent target in 2020. (China) may even do better than that,” he said.

Xie was in Hong Kong to receive one of the three Lui Che Wo prizes for his efforts in tackling global warming. He will be donating the HK$20 million prize money to the Tsinghua University Education Foundation. He is the winner in the sustainability category.

Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw his government’s ratification of the international agreement to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. He said at the time that the agreement “is less about the climate and more about other nations gaining a financial advantage over the United States”.

Trump’s decision reversed a key pillar of former President Barack Obama’s effort to combat an increase in global temperatures, which scientists say has been hastened by the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels.

The move also cedes global climate action leadership to China.

Xie said that the US’s withdrawal would not harm China’s commitment to fight climate change. China’s position on the agreement has been very clear, he said, as President Xi Jinping has already made clear that the agreement did not come easily and so should not give up on it easily.

The chief negotiator also said that the US’s withdrawal would not harm other countries in fulfilling their commitments, saying that many countries have already stated they would adhere to the agreement.

On his thoughts about receiving the prize, Xie said it is more than a personal encouragement.

“It is not only a great encouragement to me,” he said.

“But also the recognition of our country’s long-term efforts and achievement of coordinating of both domestic and international dimensions, transiting from tackling the challenge of climate change to promoting the historic opportunity to achieve sustainable development and pushing the transition towards green low-carbon development.”

Awards in the other two categories – positive energy and welfare betterment – went respectively to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Landesa, a non-governmental organisation based in the US that has helped to secure land rights for 120 million poor rural families in 50 countries since 1967.