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Stage set for debut of China's stand on climate
By Huang Xiangyang and Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-22 07:15

World attention will focus on President Hu Jintao when he addresses the United Nations climate change summit Tuesday, marking the first time that China's top leader will discuss his nation's environmental policies and measures to fight global warming at the UN.

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The world's largest developing country and one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide faces calls from industrialized nations to set binding limits on emissions.

China has long insisted that global warming is caused by the industrialization of developed countries, which account for more than 80 percent of accumulative greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere. Developing countries share "common but differentiated" responsibility in the fight against rising temperatures.

The Chinese government has said that it will commit to its responsibilities as enshrined in the UN framework convention on climate change as well as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Roadmap. Asking a developing country such as China to share responsibilities beyond its capacity is "neither practical nor fair", Chinese officials have said.

There is no indication that China would shift from this long-held position. But President Hu will use the opportunity to assure the world of China's resolve to fight global warming and its willingness to collaborate with the international community to fulfill this common task.

"Hu will send a positive signal" to the international demand to curb rising temperatures, said Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei last week, paving the way for world leaders to reach an agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

Stage set for debut of China's stand on climate
President Hu Jintao (Front, 2nd R) is greeted upon his arrival at New York, the United States, on September 21, 2009. [Xinhua]

Cao Jing, a research fellow with the Center for China in the World Economy at Tsinghua University, said Hu will call on wealthy nations to commit to deep and meaningful cuts in carbon emissions.

China believes that tackling climate change should not hinder the economic growth of developing countries. Helping developing countries adapt to climate change is not an exercise in charity by rich nations, but their responsibility, in China's view.

The developed countries should keep their promises made to developing countries in terms of funding, technology transfer and capacity building, Cao said.

China has requested that wealthy nations pay 0.7 percent of their GDP to poorer countries to help them adapt to global warming effects.

Hu is also likely to express China's opposition to trade protectionism, such as levying carbon tariffs on goods imported from developing countries unequipped with stringent environmental rules, as proposed by the US and the EU, Cao said.

Experts say China has been more aware of climate change than it gets credit for. Though the nation hasn't committed to a binding target in the reduction of greenhouse gases, it has set the goal of cutting energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent from 2006 to 2010. The country has also worked to raise the ratio of renewable energy such as wind and solar power from 7 percent of the total energy mix to 10 percent within that timeframe.

China is "well on the way to meet the targets," said Xie Zhenhua, the top envoy in climate change talks, last week.

Though details of Hu's speech are not available, measures might include carbon-emission reduction targets, as reported by some Chinese media outlets.

Yang Ailun, climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace, said she heard Hu may announce a target for taking a new low-carbon path for development. That would mean China would soon assess its economic performance by how much less carbon it would emit per unit of GDP.