* China also looking to raise clean energy to 20 pct of
* Targets part of US, China's pledges in new global climate
(Adds comment from U.N. panel of climate scientists)
By David Stanway
BEIJING, Nov 12 China and the United States
agreed on Wednesday to new limits on carbon emissions starting
in 2025, but the pledge by the world's two biggest polluters
appears to be more politically significant than substantive.
As China's President Xi Jinping agreed to a date for peak
CO2 emissions for the first time and also promised to raise the
share of zero-carbon energy to 20 percent of the country's
total, President Barack Obama said the United States would cut
its own emissions by more than a quarter by 2025.
At its best, the announcement threw the political weight of
the world's two biggest economies behind a new global climate
pact to be negotiated in Paris next year.
But the United States has already pledged to cut its carbon
emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and it's not clear if the new
proposals will pass a Republican-dominated Congress.
In a statement, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell
branded the new U.S. emission cuts as part of Obama's
"ideological war on coal", and said his priority in the new
Congress was "easing the burden" of environmental regulations.
With China still falling short of any absolute target to
reduce emissions, Obama could face even more pressure.
In Oslo, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N. panel of
climate scientists, said the deal was "heartening" even though
it fell far short of cuts needed to avert the worst of global
warming, from heatwaves to rising sea levels.
For China, the targets add little to its existing
commitments to wean itself off carbon, environmental experts
"The statement is an upbeat signal to motivate other
countries but the timeline China has committed to is not a
binding target," said Li Junfeng, an influential Chinese climate
policy adviser linked to China's state planning agency, the
National Development and Reform Commission.
The peak date was also in line with forecasts already made
by several state-backed think-tanks, with the China Academy of
Social Sciences saying in a study last week that slowing rates
of urbanisation would likely mean that industrial emissions
would peak around 2025-2030 and start to fall by 2040.
U.S. officials said the commitments, the result of months of
dialogue between the two countries, would spur other nations to
make pledges and deliver "a shot of momentum" into negotiations
for the new global agreement.
"Today's announcement is the political breakthrough we've
been waiting for," said Timothy E. Wirth, former U.S.
Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs and the vice chairman
of the United Nations Foundation.
"If the two biggest players on climate are able to get
together, from two very different perspectives, the rest of the
world can see that it's possible to make real progress," he said
in a statement.
The targets could have been more far-reaching, environmental
"It is a very good sign for both countries and injects
strong momentum (into negotiations), but the targets are not
ambitious enough," said Tao Wang, climate scholar at the
Tsinghua-Carnegie Center for Global Policy in Beijing.
China's targets should serve as "the floor and not the
ceiling", said Li Shuo, a campaigner with environmental group
Greenpeace in Beijing. He said the vague wording of "around
2030" also didn't help, and could mean any time between 2027 and
China also pledged to boost the share of non-fossil fuels in
its energy mix to around 20 percent by 2030, from less than 10
percent in 2013, a move that could require 1,000 gigawatts of
new nuclear and renewable capacity, but Wang said the figure
took China little further than "business as usual".
Li, the climate policy adviser, said Beijing was not
expected to make any significant new commitments next year,
adding that it would also be wise not to expect too much of the
"It is in our own interest to promote clean energy,
restructure our model of economic growth and cleaning air
pollution," he said.
(Additional reporting by Kathy Chen, Stian Reklev, Matt
Spetalnick in BEIJING and Valerie Volcovici in WASHINGTON and
Alister Doyle in OSLO; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)