In What Format and Under What Timeframe Would China Take on Climate Commitments? A Roadmap to 2050
East-West Center Working Papers, Environmental Change, Vulnerability, and Governance Series, No. 66
Honolulu: East-West Center
Given that China is already the world's largest carbon emitter and its emissions continue to rise rapidly in line with its industrialization and urbanization, there is no disagreement that China eventually needs to take on binding greenhouse gas emissions caps. However, the key challenges are when that would occur and what credible interim targets China would need to take on during this transition period. This paper takes these challenges by mapping out the roadmap for China's specific commitments towards 2050. Specifically, I suggest that China make credible quantified domestic commitments during the second commitment period, commit to voluntary no lose targets during the third commitment period, adopt binding carbon intensity targets during the fourth commitment period, and take on binding emissions caps starting the fifth commitment period and aimed for the global convergence of per capita emissions by 2050. These proposed commitments should be viewed as China's political commitments, not necessarily China's actual takings in the ongoing international climate change negotiations, in order to break the current political impasse between developed and developing countries. It is worthwhile China considering these political commitments either on its own or through a joint statement with U.S. and other major countries, provided that a number of conditions can be worked out. These commitments are principles, and still leave flexibility for China to work out details as international climate change negotiations move on. But in the meantime, they signal well ahead that China is seriously committed to addressing climate change issues, alleviate, if not completely remove, U.S. and other industrialized country's concerns about when China would get in, an indication that the whole world has long awaited from China, help U.S. to take on long-expected emissions commitments, and thus pave the way for reaching an international climate agreement at Copenhagen.