In a move heralded as the “most promising development in nearly 20 years of climate change negotiations” China and the US have begun a new phase of talks aimed at curbing their carbon dioxide emissions.
The meeting has been welcomed by observers who say co-operation between the two countries – together responsible for the same level of emissions as nearly every other country combined – could play a major role as the world gears up for the UN climate summit in Paris in 2015.
Governments and NGOs are focused on ensuring that Paris does not emulate the Copenhagen summit of 2009 where all attempts to gain consensus on a global climate deal were thwarted, not least because of differences between the US and China.
China has recently implemented legislation in an attempt to slash its appalling air pollution and many see this as a first step on the road to committing to strong climate action.
Speaking in China last week, EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard insisted that reducing China’s greenhouse gas emissions is central to a global climate deal.
The question of when China’s emissions will peak and reverse will also have global significance as countries work towards a new climate agreement, said Hedegaard.
Unlike the EU and US, where emissions have started to decline, China’s carbon pollution has continued to rise sharply in recent decades.
Despite this, new research shows that China is following global trends and moving away from coal and towards a renewable energy future.
She said that all countries must do their part in the fight against climate change and that all commitments to the 2015 deal should be “legally binding”.
But the EU must also show leadership by supporting strong climate and energy targets.
Governments are currently negotiating how the bloc will reduce its emissions between now and 2030, but many observers have labelled the proposed targets as overly weak and not fit-for purpose.
There is no time to delay on climate action. Just weeks ago the world’s top climate scientists met in Japan and then again in Germany to issue several dire warnings about the planet’s future if action isn’t taken soon.
Climate policy remains at a crossroads.
With the UN Secretary General’s leaders summit on climate change in September and with just one more COP meeting in Peru on route to Paris 2015, it is vital that governments, particularly those in the most polluting nations work at a national and international level to drive action and put climate change at the top of the political agenda.