China’s President Hu Jintao promised to put a “notable” brake on the country’s rapidly rising carbon emissions, but stopped short of embracing a hard target. Many environmentalists were encouraged by the message, but many were hoping for more.

“We will endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level,” Hu told a United Nations summit on global warming. It’s the first time a Chinese leader has suggested that CO2 emissions would be weighed along with economic growth in future Chinese decisions, and it might put more pressure on industrial companies.

“It’s still a very significant step — a Chinese leader standing on that platform and saying China will make a mid-term carbon intensity target,” said Yang Ailun of Greenpeace China. Al Gore agreed, calling this change in attitude “impressive,” and suggesting that more action would be forthcoming.

“They are very important [statements] and we’ve had … indications that in the event there is dramatic progress in this negotiation, that China will be prepared to do even more,” he said. “I think the glass is very much half full as far as China is concerned.” (Source: Reuters, September 22, 2009)

Contact: Ministry of Environmental Protection, The People’s Republic of China, english.sepa.gov.cn