Hope from Beijing for a Climate Treaty as US Delays Progress

Cross-posted from the DC Avaaz Action Factory
by Morgan Goodwin

Tuesday evening, amidst a historic Beijing meeting between President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, dozens of activists with the global campaigning network Avaaz.org released over one hundred Chinese flying lanterns and a floating balloon banner into the air just south of the White House.

Chinese flying lanterns are a symbol of hope traditionally released to celebrate the new year. The Avaaz action highlights China’s proactive domestic climate commitments as a source of inspiration for the UN climate summit in Copenhagen this December.

“China is no longer a legitimate excuse for inaction on climate,” says Ricken Patel, Executive Director of Avaaz. “In fact, it’s China that is bringing hope to a world frustrated by the failure of the US government to address this crisis. Contrary to what some Senators argue, China is doing more in many areas than the US to fight climate change.”

China, despite having per capita emissions that are less than one quarter of America’s (really cool chart here), has committed to reduce its carbon intensity 20% below 2005 levels by 2010 and to produce 20% of the country’s energy from renewables. This has resulted in the creation of thousands of green jobs.

By contrast, the US has yet to commit to emissions reductions as climate legislation languishes in the Senate. The US and China must both cut emissions aggressively in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. “The world is counting on Obama and Hu Jintao to set the pace for a real deal to emerge from Copenhagen,” said Patel.

The event follows days of confusing and sometimes contradictory statements from world leaders, including Obama, over desired outcomes from critical UN climate negotiations next month.

“Leaders may not sign a treaty in December, but the crisis demands a binding Copenhagen commitment to three core elements of that treaty: ambitious carbon cuts, fair funding, and legal enforceability,” said Patel. “China and the US are the two biggest polluters in the world, and it is no exaggeration to say that the future of our planet rests on their actions at Copenhagen.”

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