The United Nations’ chief climate official has said China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is also the country “doing it right” when it comes to addressing global warming.
The nation also had some of the toughest energy-efficiency standards for buildings and transportation and its support for solar photovoltaic technology helped reduce panel costs by 80 per cent since 2008.
The country was facing growing public pressure from citizens to reduce air pollution, due in large part to burning coal.
Its efforts to promote energy efficiency and renewable power stemmed from the realisation that doing so would pay off in the long term, Ms Figueres said.
“They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at,” she told Bloomberg News.
China was also able to implement policies because its political system avoided some of the legislative hurdles seen in countries including the United States, Ms Figueres said.
Bloomberg reports key policies, reforms and appointments are decided at plenums, or meeting of the governing Communist Party’s more than 200-strong Central Committee.
The National People’s Congress, China’s unicameral legislature, largely enforces decisions made by the party and other executive organs.
Ms Figueres is responsible for guiding more than 190 member-states in a UN-led initiative to draft an international treaty to fight global warming.
The goal is to sign in 2015 a treaty that will take effect in 2020, replacing the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997.
Canada pulled out of the treaty in 2011 and Russia and Japan have rejected new targets after 2012.
The US has never ratified it, all of which means the treaty has applied to less than 15 per cent of global emissions.
Bloomberg reports Ms Figueres expects a draft version of the 2015 treaty to be discussed at talks in Lima, Peru, in December.
Climate goals should “feed the national interest,” Ms Figueres said, as opposed to “committing to something that is against your interest.”
Some details, including accountability and compliance, were still to be worked out, she told Bloomberg.
She added the new treaty may include different levels of contribution for countries, based on what each nation reports it will be able to deliver.
In the US, the divided Congress was politicising climate change and slowing down efforts to pass legislation, Ms Figueres said.
President Barack Obama’s administration is expected to finalise this year new limits on power-plant emissions, a move that may help meet a pledge to reduce greenhouse gases by 17 per cent by 2020,
It’s unclear whether the power-plant rules and other efforts by Obama to address climate change will translate into a more ambitious pledge for the post-2020 period.
The US plans to reveal its pledge in the first quarter of 2015, ahead of the December 2015 climate conference in Paris.