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Climate law summit gets started in DC

China has been taking drastic action and drafting more action plans to combat global climate change and serious environmental pollution at home, according to a senior Chinese environmental official.

China - the world's largest carbon emitter - is committed to cutting its carbon dioxide emissions per unit by 40 to 50 percent by 2020, on the basis of 2005 levels, Xie Zhenhua, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said in a prepared video speech shown to the two-day 2nd GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit which kicked off in Washington on Thursday.

Preliminary statistics show that China's carbon emission per unit dropped by 28.5 percent in 2013 from the 2005 level. It means a reduction of 2.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile, China has also become one of the leading producers of wind, solar and hydro-power in the world.

Xie said that as a developing country, China is faced with multiple challenges in economic development, poverty eradication and climate and environmental protection, and the Chinese government is committed to exploring a green, circular and low-carbon development path.

"The Chinese government has made climate change response a key national strategy for economic and social development, and launched a series of successful actions at home," he said.

Xie said China is also committed to preparing for the national post-2020 action plan to address climate change through consultation and making a substantial contribution to the global climate response after 2020.

The country will establish a target responsibility system for carbon intensity reduction in order to reach the goal. It has also been promoting low-carbon development piloting and demonstration.

Xie said China has also been promoting low-carbon concept in the nation's massive urbanization program and pushing forward the pilot programs in carbon trading, which has been launched in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

"China is committed to climate legislation," he said.

The 2nd GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit gathered more than 100 senior national legislators from 50 countries along with the heads of key international institutions, such as those under the United Nations and the World Bank.

More than 500 national laws have so far been passed in 66 countries covered in a study by the GLOBE International and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, according to Terry Townshend, director of policy and deputy secretary general of GLOBE International, a global organization of legislators. The 66 countries account for 88 percent of global emissions.

Much of the substantive progress on legislative activity on climate change in 2013 took place in emerging economies, including China and Mexico, which will provide the motor of global economic growth in coming decades, according to the study.

While current national legislation does not yet add up to what needs to be done to avoid dangerous climate change, it is putting in place the mechanisms to measure, report and verify emissions, a prerequisite for a credible global climate treaty, the study says.

China has been praised for making substantive progress and positive advances in climate legislation in 2013. The report praised China for publishing the National Adaptation Plan and making progress in drafting its national climate change law.

Townshend, who is based in Beijing, praised China's legislative approach to addressing comprehensive and overarching issues, citing the country's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015).

UN Assistant Secretary General Robert Orr said the world starts to organize a new climate agreement not only because of the need for a global agreement by 2015 but also because of what has happened in the world, referring to the UN Climate Conference to be held in Paris next year, when the world needs to reach a new agreement on climate change.

"Extreme weather is pounding our planet in every part of the planet," he said.

Orr believes responding to climate change also means great opportunities.

"Businesses around the world, north, south, east and west, are all starting to see opportunities in responding to climate change. This is new. And governments are mobilizing. At the United Nations, we see increased activities from governments all over the world," he said.

"It is not just Beijing and Brussels, and Brasilia, from Washington to Honolulu, we are seeing serious and real efforts across countries," Orr said.  

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