China Says Climate Policy Must Make Room for Growth
BEIJING -- China went on the global warming offensive on Monday, unveiling a national climate change plan while stressing it will not sacrifice economic ambitions to international demands to cut greenhouse gas pollution.
The official launching the plan said emissions caps that dented growth in poor nations would do more damage than climate change itself -- despite the floods, droughts and rising sea levels that global warming threatens to generate.
"The ramifications of limiting the development of developing countries would be even more serious than those from climate change," said Ma Kai, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, which steers climate change policy.
"China will not commit to any quantified emissions reduction targets, but that does not mean we will not assume responsibilities in responding to climate change," he told reporters.
China's first national plan on climate change vows to combat global warming through energy saving, agricultural adaptation and forest planting.
But it will also serve as a shield for tough international talks ahead. Beijing faces rising calls to set targets for taming greenhouse gas emissions trapping more heat in the atmosphere.
"This is more of a mobilisation rally to draw the battle line as the G8 approaches. Beijing wants to make sure that China is not the target of world opinion on global warming issues," said Wenran Jiang, an energy expert at the University of Alberta.
"After much talk about a China energy threat, now Beijing sees the coming of a China environment threat," he added.
The plan appeared two days before President Hu Jintao attends a meeting of Group of Eight leaders in Germany at which global warming is top of the agenda.
It says that wealthy powers produced most of the gases currently heating the globe and still have far higher per capita emissions than China, so they should fund clean development rather than forcing poor countries to accept emission limits.
Rich countries had shifted manufacturing to poor nations like China and then blamed them for rising pollution, while dragging their feet over commitments to share clean technology, he said.
"We feel that there's been lots of thunder but little rain, lots of talk but little action," he told the news conference when asked if China was satisfied with technology transfers.
International contention over emissions is set to intensify as negotiations open on extending a U.N. treaty on global warming and emissions beyond 2012, when the first phase of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol ends.
China on Monday welcomed U.S. President George Bush's recent proposals on global warming as a "positive change", but joined several European leaders in calling for a single global approach.
The Bush plan aims to gather representatives from 15 top polluting nations, including China, this year to discuss climate change and come up with long-term goals to combat global warming by the end of 2008.
Some critics fear Bush's proposal for separate talks could be designed to rival rather than reinforce U.N. efforts, but Ma said it should be a "helpful complement, not a substitute".
But he also disputed an EU target of limiting temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius, calling for further studies on the social and economic impacts of the target.
"I think that as yet there is no scientific basis for that," Ma said, after calling for adaptation to a hotter world to receive the same priority as tackling emissions growth.
The national plan spells out the threats that China sees from global warming in coming decades -- intensified droughts and floods, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and declines in grain yields unless counter steps are taken.
It also gave a rare estimate for emissions, putting 2004 levels at around 6.1 billion tonnes, which Ma said was still just around one fifth of U.S. per capita levels for the same year.