From: David Stanway, Reuters, BEIJING
Published November 22, 2011 07:15 AM

Economic woes no excuse for climate inaction, says China

Economic problems in Europe and elsewhere should not get in the way of a new pact to fight global warming, China's top climate official said on Tuesday ahead of major climate talks in South Africa.


Delegates from nearly 200 countries meet from Monday till Dec 9 in Durban as part of marathon U.N.-led negotiations on a broader pact to curb growing greenhouse gas emissions as the world faces rising sea levels and greater weather extremes.

"After the financial crisis, every country has had its problems, but these problems are just temporary," Xie Zhenhua, vice-director of the National Development and Reform Commission, told reporters on Tuesday.

Officials in Beijing have suggested economic turmoil in Europe and political unrest in North Africa have pushed climate change far down the list of global priorities, overshadowing next week's talks and undermining plans to provide cash and technical support to poor nations to adapt to climate change.

"Climate change isn't unimportant at this stage, but it isn't so salient, and I think it will again draw the attention of the global community in 2015 after the (new round of) scientific assessments are carried out," said Xie.

He was referring to a review of nations' emissions reduction pledges and a major 2013-14 report by the U.N. climate panel.

At the last round of negotiations in Cancun in 2010, all sides agreed on $30 billion in fast-start funding to help poorer countries adapt to the impact of rising temperatures and changing weather patterns up to 2012, with plans to increase the amount to $100 billion a year by 2020.

Xie said the $30 billion commitment is now unlikely to be met, but expressed hope that mechanisms for a green climate fund could still be established at Durban.

"We understand the difficulties facing Western countries, but the problem we are talking about now is a long-term financing mechanism while the economic problems are temporary."

With little progress expected at Durban, environmental groups have said time is quickly running out if the world is to stay below a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise.

The World Meteorological Organization said on Monday that carbon dioxide levels rose to 389 parts per million last year, an annual rise of 2.3 ppm and edging closer to the 450 ppm level that could precipitate two degrees of warming.

Durban, South Africa photo credit: ShutterstockChris Jenner

Article continues at Reuters.

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