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China will finally start fixing its air pollution problem in 2016

China will finally start fixing its air pollution problem in 2016


The world's worst carbon emitter announces a cap on CO2 emissions

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The Obama administration announced yesterday that the US will reduce carbon pollution by 30 percent over the course of the next 16 years. Now, the world's worst carbon polluter is following suit, as Reuters reports that China will cap its CO2 emissions starting in 2016.

China's emissions are still expected to grow

The start of China's next five-year plan will mark the beginning of the cap. But the new regulation is unlikely to stop China's CO2 emissions from increasing. In fact, emissions are expected to grow until 2030, and will peak at around 11 billion tons of CO2-equivalent, Reuters reports, compared with the country's current 7 billion to 9.5 billion tons. So what the regulation might actually do instead is stop China's CO2 emissions from getting out of control — a feat that the country will probably achieve through increased reliance on nuclear power, instead of coal.

A "turning point in the global scene on climate change"

Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate policy at University College London, told Reuters that "the Chinese announcement marks potentially the most important turning point in the global scene on climate change for a decade." Unfortunately, it's difficult to evaluate the cap's impact because the final numbers have yet to be released. Those will likely be announced in a year's time, along with a more complete version of China's next five-year plan.

Regardless, this week's announcements from China and the US bode well for the global meeting on climate change that is will begin in Germany tomorrow. As John Connor, CEO of Melbourne-based The Climate Institute, told Reuters, the move "sends a very powerful signal to the rest of the world to get serious."