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Has China taken the lead on climate change?

As Mark Leon Goldberg noted in his list of stories to watch during U.N. week, Hu Jintao’s speech on climate change today was expected to be a major indication of whether China is looking to take a leadership role on the issue. U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said he was expecting China to take ...

As Mark Leon Goldberg noted in his list of stories to watch during U.N. week, Hu Jintao’s speech on climate change today was expected to be a major indication of whether China is looking to take a leadership role on the issue. U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said he was expecting China to take over as the world’s agenda-setter on climate change after today:

‘This suite of policies will take China to be a world leader on addressing climate change, and 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,’ De Boer told reporters.

Hu did make headlines today by pledging "to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level" and reiterating his pledge to make 15 percent of China’s energy renewable by 2020. However, Hu declined to set specific targets for emissions cuts, leading some to see the address as a bit of a letdown. The Guardian’s Damian Harrington wrote that Hu "failed to deliver measures that would significantly stir up the stagnant negotiations towards an international treaty to fight global warming."

The same article quotes CFR’s Michael Levi saying that it "doesn’t seem that he made the much-anticipated significant announcement that people were hoping for."

So has the outlook for Copenhagen changed with China at least nearing the driver’s seat? As India’s environmental minister Jairam Ramesh, who himself announced new non-binding emissions targets this week, recently urged developed countries, "don’t expect miracles."

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