Hope for global action on climate change as China plans emissions cap

China could set an upper limit for its carbon emissions for the first time, with plans drawn up for the cap to be in place from 2016

China has drawn up plans to put a cap on its greenhouse gas emissions in a move widely seen as a major advance in the global battle against climate change.

The country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has proposed placing an absolute limit on the country’s emissions for the first time, from 2016.

China is the world’s biggest producer of carbon dioxide, responsible for almost a quarter of worldwide emissions.

The plan still needs to be approved by China’s cabinet, the State Council, but experts have indicated that NDRC’s influence means this is likely to happen.

A Chinese cap would significantly increase international pressure for greater action from other countries, including the US, the world’s second biggest carbon dioxide emitter.

Failure to include the likes of China and India in the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement on the reduction of carbon emissions – was previously cited by the US to justify its own refusal to ratify the treaty.

China’s change of position will increase hopes that a legally binding global agreement on climate change can be reached at the next major UN climate change summit in Paris in 2015.

Doug Parr, Greenpeace’s chief scientist, said it “should unblock the standoff between the US and China in the global climate change negotiations.”

Economic growth in China remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, but the country is also making huge investments in renewable energy.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, clean energy investment in China in 2012 rose to $65.1bn (£43bn), whereas in the US it fell significantly to $35.6bn (£23.5bn).