Thursday, October 30, 2008

China urges developed nations to spend more on tackling climate change

Developed countries should take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for global warming and climate change, said a Chinese government white paper published on Wednesday.

Rich countries should spend at least 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) helping developing nations address climate change, a senior Chinese economic planner said when explaining the policy paper.

"But till now, their spending is far below that level," Xie Zhenhua, vice director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said.

In the white paper titled "China's Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change", the government stated that developed nations should provide financial support and transfer technologies to help developing countries fight against global warming.

Developing countries, while building their economies and fighting poverty, should actively adopt measures to adapt to climate change, reduce their emissions to the lowest degree and fulfill their duties in addressing climate change, according to the white paper.

Rich nations should take the major responsibility for climate change as their greenhouse gas emissions from 1950 to 2000 accounted for 77 percent of the world total, said Xie.

"Developed countries must demonstrate to the developing world their commitment to tackling climate change through strong targets and that low-carbon growth is both feasible and affordable," Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, said in a conference in Beijing on Oct. 23.

China's emissions of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas from fossil fuel burning, accounted for eight percent of the world total from 1904 to 2004.

"According to our data, China's current total emissions are almost as the same as that of the United States," Xie told reporters. "Whether or not we have surpassed the U.S. in emissions is in itself not important. We should look at the issue fairly and from a historic view."

"If our total emissions were at the same level, the per capita emissions in China, home to a population of 1.3 billion, would be one fifth of that of the U.S.," he said.

In addition, some 20 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions resulted from the production of its exports to developed countries as it is the "factory of the world".

China admitted that it was difficult to control greenhouse gas emissions because of the ongoing industrialization process and its coal-dominated energy mix.

Xie said the country was in the process of industrialization and urbanization when emissions were usually high, a natural rule experienced by rich nations earlier.

"To advance further towards its development objective, China will strive for a rational growth of energy demand," said the white paper. "The coal-dominated energy mix cannot be substantially changed in the near future, thus making the control of greenhouse gas emissions rather difficult."

"The Chinese government pays high attention to the issue of climate change," Xie told the briefing.

The government has set targets on energy conservation and pollution reduction to achieve a sustainable growth. Measures designed to meet the targets include closures of out-dated production facilities, use of energy efficient equipment and clean energy.

"China has taken substantial efforts to mitigate carbon emissions and achieved marked progress. The momentum will be maintained in the future," He Jiankun, director of laboratory of low carbon energy at Qinghua University.

China pledged to play a constructive role in rolling out a new global initiative on tackling climate change after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The protocol, which the U.S. refused to ratify, has no mandatory emissions cuts targets for the developing countries.

"We will play the same constructive role in climate change conferences in Boznan this year and in Copenhagen late next year as we did in Bali," he said.

China would put forward its propositions on the establishment of a mechanism for technology transfers at the Beijing High-Level Conference on Climate Change on Nov. 7 and 8, according to Xie.

In 2004, China released for the first time data on greenhouse gas emissions in 1994. The government was working on the second release of such data, he said, without elaborating.

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