September 21, 2009 / 5:02 PM / 10 years ago

U.N. official sees China as new climate leader

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.N. climate chief said on Monday he expects China to become the “world leader” on addressing climate change after President Hu Jintao announces policy measures on greenhouse gas emissions on Tuesday.

Yvo de Boer said he expects Hu to announce, in a speech to a U.N. climate change summit in New York, a series of measures “that will take Chinese emissions very significantly away from where they would have been and are.”

“This suite of policies will take China to be the world leader on addressing climate change,” he said.

De Boer told reporters: “It will be quite ironic to hear that tomorrow expressed in a country (the United States) that is firmly convinced that China is doing nothing to address climate change.”

Hu, U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders are slated to talk at the climate summit. The U.N. hopes the gathering will help break a deadlock between rich and developing countries on how the burden in cutting emissions should be shared around the world.

Some 190 countries will meet in December in Copenhagen, aiming to hammer out a successor agreement to the U.N. Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

Hu may lay down on Tuesday a “carbon intensity” target for his country, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, as he seeks to show Beijing’s commitment to fighting climate change, experts said earlier on Monday.

Such a pledge would cut the amount of emissions produced for each dollar of national income.


De Boer also said he expected Hu to announce new Chinese policies on renewable energy, industrial efficiency and cleaner transportation.

In the United States, the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, Obama has made climate change a top priority but progress has been slow partly because of a preoccupation with moves to reform the costly U.S. healthcare system.

The House of Representatives narrowly passed its version of a climate bill in June that would cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels.

Democrats hope to vote on a Senate bill later this year, but the future of the legislation is uncertain. Both chambers must pass a bill before it goes to Obama for signature.

De Boer said the Obama administration would not have to bring a signed climate bill to the Copenhagen meeting in order for it to be a success. Obama should be willing, however, to agree to a target in cutting emissions.

“The world was and is really excited about what Obama has demonstrated in terms of commitment to engage on this topic to take it seriously, to show leadership ... but now he has to deliver the goods,” de Boer said. “I don’t have the sense in any way that (Obama) is backing away from the issue.”

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Storey

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