August 6, 2009 3:00 am
Beijing hinted yesterday at room for compromise in global climate change talks, as its negotiator left open the possibility China could commit itself to reducing carbon emissions beyond 2012.
Yu Qingtai, Beijing's special representative for climate talks, indicated that more generous financial and technological support from developed countries could help China reach a peak in its carbon emissions sooner than expected.
Along with other developing nations, China wants developed countries to be legally bound to help pay for curbing emissions in poorer ones. "When China's emissions will peak depends on our development stage, our GDP per capita, our resources structure and technology level," he said.
"It will also depend on the dynamics of international co-operation, especially technology transfer."
Mr Yu's remarks to journalists appeared to show a new willingness to converge with the western approach, in contrast to previous communications characterised by demands for western countries to do more, rather than an emphasis on what China will do.
China has also sounded a more moderate tone recently on how much developed countries should curb their emissions under a new global agreement to be sealed in December in Copenhagen. While Beijing demanded in May that rich nations must cut greenhouse emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels, it has lately spoken only of "large reductions".
Mr Yu said China still considered the 40 per cent target fair, but added that it would be set through negotiations. His moderate tone contrasts markedly with the attitude shown by India.
Last week, Jairam Ramesh , India's environment minister, said New Delhi would not discuss signing up to legally binding obligations for absolute cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for at least another decade.
Rich countries are not asking for developing states to be obliged to cut their emissions from current levels. Instead, they would like emerging economies such as China and India to commit themselves to curbing future emissions. This would mean that such countries could continue to increase emissions as their economies developed, but that measures should be taken to ensure the increase is less than historical levels.
This could involve national action plans, including energy efficiency schemes, renewable energy generation and investment in new technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
China has set targets to increase its proportion of renewables and increase its energy efficiency, and now has one of the most buoyant renewable energy sectors in the world. Negotiators from other countries, and particularly the US, praise such actions in the hope of encouraging more from Beijing.
The country is on track to meet a target to reduce energy consumption per unit of its gross domestic product by 20 per cent by 2010 over 2005 levels, said Mr Yu.
He rejected the idea of a rift between China and India. The two countries were closely co-ordinating in the multilateral climate talks, and their positions on the principles of the Copenhagen negotiations were "quite identical", he said.
'I can say that as a Chinese, there is no one in the world who hopes more sincerely than we ourselves to see China's emissions peak as early as possible. Because this is in the Chinese national interest, and it is also in the interest of the people of the world' Yu Qingtai, China's special representative for climate change talks
Clive Crook blog: www.ft.com/chinaclimate
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