Rich countries' coldness puts China's sincerity in vain

Updated: 2011-12-08 08:16


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BEIJING - Although China signaled its willingness to embrace a future legally-binding treaty on emissions cuts, its sincerity, unilaterally, will not necessarily win rich countries' cooperation, which could mean a failure at the Durban talks.

In a move to break the ice amid the tussle-and-hassle between rich and poor countries over green obligations, Xie Zhenhua, the Chinese negotiation head, said Sunday that China is open to talks on binding emissions cuts after 2020 on the condition that a comprehensive and scientific appraisal of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is conducted.

Raising hopes of movement, China's positive tone, however, was doused by cold water by US chief delegate Todd Stern, who said Tuesday that the legally-binding pacts should be accepted "unconditionally" with "no escape hatches in the text."

Being the only developed country refusing to join the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only legal pact to tackle climate change, the United States, which thrives on the most carbon emissions in history, should have acted on its own to pay its debt to human history.

Artificially keeping itself aloof from common obligations, the United States, reversely and ridiculously, applies harsh and overcritical standards over China's utmost and self-geared earnestness. Its ungratefulness and arrogance could strangle the already faint hopes of making real progress in Durban.

China has reasons to demand appraisal of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, since only based on comprehensive and scientific investigations of the previous efforts, would the global green agenda be clearer, more targeted and effective.

Neglecting China's tenable demands indicates the United States' fears of bigger due obligations it might be faced with if the appraisal would be proved correct.

As the first developing country to have a road-map to tackle climate change, China reduced 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the past five years, and aims to lower carbon intensity by 17 percent over the next five years.

All of these efforts cannot be made without costs. As an emerging economy with per capita GDP just passing 4,000 US dollars, China has done its part in the sacrifice of blistering economic growth.

According to experts, based on the current pace of economic growth and emissions control efforts, China's emissions would, optimistically, peak around 2030, well ahead of the timetable of 2040 or 2050 if no measures were taken. It would be an immense contribution that China would make to the humanity, and also a responsible role that China plays in the international community.

With a population of more than 1.3 billion, it is normal to see China's greenhouse gas emissions huge in total. But in terms of per capita reading, China's data are about half that of Japan, and less than one third of the emissions in Australia and United States.

Emerging countries are newcomers in the ranks of major emitters. Considering the centuries-old emissions records made by the industrialized countries, the emissions by emerging economies are too small to compare.

It is time for the rich countries to abandon the fault-finding psyche and confront their historic responsibilities. If a climate catastrophe were to occur due to human error, all would suffer and no one could be kept safe.