In Depth

Climate Summit: China to take action on emissions

US and China 'embrace' their responsibility to combat the global effects of climate change

China has pledged to take firm action on climate change for the first time, promising to bring its greenhouse gas emissions under control as soon as possible.

Addressing the UN at yesterday's Climate Summit, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said that China will "make greater effort to more effectively address climate change".

President Barack Obama said that the US and China had a responsibility to lead the way in the battle against climate change. "We recognise our role in creating this problem [and] we embrace our responsibility to combat it," he told over 100 heads of state gathered in New York.

"We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and the last generation that can do anything about it," he warned.

Attitudes towards cutting carbon emissions are changing in China as the harmful effects of it are being felt at home, Greenpeace's Li Shuo told the Guardian. "Domestic air pollution is forcing the country to embark on a new path away from coal and 2014 saw the lowest coal consumption growth in a decade," he said.

In the US, Obama faces strong opposition in Congress on the issue of climate change. He is "eager to leave an environmental legacy," writes the BBC's environmental correspondent Matt McGrath, but some in Congress are "unwilling to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, or ratify an international agreement."

Other countries also outlined commitments they had made, with David Cameron telling the summit he had fulfilled his promise to run the "greenest government ever". The largest financial pledge was made by French president Francois Hollande, who promised to contribute $1 billion to a climate fund which would help poorer countries deal with the effects of rising temperatures.

While the comments from Obama and Zhang were welcomed by most, others remained sceptical. Jeffrey Sachs, an economist and advisor to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon told the BBC: "This meeting [by itself] will not solve the problems. This meeting is to raise awareness."

"Our governments do not take care of the future, they're short-term, short-sighted," he added.

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