Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Chinese demands expose split in climate change panel

Associated Press
Thursday May 3, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Delegates racing to finish a report mapping out measures to combat global warming split today over an effort by China to water down proposed limits on the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

China has emerged as a key voice in the debate this week at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where a UN network of 2,000 scientists and delegates from more than 120 countries have held closed-door meetings on how best to cope with global warming.

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As the wrangling over the text of the final report wound down to its final hours, China - the world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases - was pushing to raise the lowest target level of CO2 in the world's atmosphere, according to Michael Muller, Germany's deputy environment minister.

A draft of the report proposes a cap on concentrations of greenhouse gas levels ranging from 445 parts per million to 650 parts per million, but China wants the lower range removed from the report over fears it would hinder its booming economy, Mr Muller said.

"The Chinese are resisting a lot, and a lot of countries are hiding behind the Chinese position," he told reporters.

He did not specify who was supporting China, but the United States also feels the targets are too stringent. India shares many of the same concerns that the world's rush to cut down emissions would slow its economic growth.

China is facing increasing international pressure as its economy expands - it posted 11.1% growth in the first quarter - and it pumps increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

At the meeting this week, Beijing has campaigned for language making plain that the world's leading industrialised countries are responsible for global warming and bear the main responsibility for solving it, rather than latecomers like China and India.

"China is being the most vocal about the language," said Edward Mulbah, a delegate from Liberia. "They don't want to be held responsible for consequences in the future."

Chinese delegates have not discussed their positions publicly at the conference, but environmentalists suggested today that Beijing was being unfairly targeted and that it was making strong efforts to improve energy efficiency and rein in emissions.

Stephan Singer, of WWF International, said China had a worthy target of increasing energy efficiency by 20% from 2006 to 2010.

"It's a very ambitious target and I would wish many industrialised countries would have the same target," he told reporters.

Despite the German objections to the Chinese position, other delegates suggested the negotiations were going smoothly. Delegates were going painstakingly line by line through the draft of the report to iron out disagreements over wording.

Some participants said most of the objections from India and China - often efforts to cut out language altogether rather amending it - have been overcome so far, as scientists provided proof on such basic issues as how mitigation measures correspond to various emission levels.

"China and India were the governments having more questions and requesting changes in the existing text," said Michel Petit, a French delegate. "But up to now, every time we were able to overcome their concerns and come to an agreement."

The report, which is due to be published tomorrow, is expected to urge countries to deploy an array of measures - including energy-efficient technologies, a shift away from coal and agricultural reforms - to keep world temperatures from rising more than 2C, thereby limiting the impact of global warming.

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