China is firmly opposed to any inclusion of binding targets for reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions in a planned new international pact to fight global warming, the European parliament’s climate change committee said on Wednesday.
However, after meetings with senior Chinese officials, one member of the committee hinted at a route to possible compromise, suggesting Beijing might be willing instead to commit itself to anti-climate change action along with other developing countries.
Negotiators from 191 nations will meet in Bali in December to begin talks on a successor to the Kyoto protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012.
The US has insisted developing countries such as China and India must shoulder part of the burden of cutting emissions, even though their historic and per capita contribution to global warming is far less than that of rich nations.
China, which the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts will surpass the US as the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases this year, insists that it should not be subject to any restrictions that might harm its development prospects.
“Unlike the European parliament or the European Union, the Chinese believe that it will not be possible, in the agreement which follows the Kyoto protocol, for China to accept any binding obligations,” said Guido Sacconi, chairman of the parliament's climate committee.
However, Mr Sacconi said he was confident agreement would be possible in the talks to replace the protocol – adding that the more substantive obstacle to agreement came from elsewhere.
“The problem is rather that of other superpowers, other areas of the world, who may not wish to join in and follow the same course,” he said in an apparent reference to the US.
Barbara de Brun, an Irish member of the European parliament committee, said that instead of rejecting binding emissions targets, China could promise to contribute to action against climate change alongside other developing countries.
Hinting at possible room for compromise, Ms de Brun drew a distinction between Beijing's rejection of binding obligations and possible willingness to promise action “in an international forum”.
"There is some indication that would seem to me to open the possibility that within negotiations…China itself would make certain commitments," she said.
While China’s role in a post-Kyoto regime remains a matter of dispute, the implications of the country’s rapid industrialisation for global greenhouse gas emissions is clear.
In a report released on Wednesday, the IEA said China was likely to overtake the US as the world’s largest energy consumer soon after 2010. Chinese primary energy demand was forecast to more than double from 1,742m tonnes of oil equivalent to 3,819m tonnes by 2030. China was “by far the biggest contributor” to an expected 57 per cent increase in global energy-related CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2030, the IEA said.
Get alerts on EU energy when a new story is published