China under pressure to play key role at Copenhagen climate summit
China, the largest greenhouse-gas emitter, will not take on emissions caps but has announced its first numerical target. The US and EU are likely to push for more at Copenhagen climate summit.
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The speed of China's growth poses another problem, adds He Jiankun, a top climate change adviser to the government. "It is hard to predict whether growth will be 7 percent or 10 percent a year," he says. "Over 10 years, that adds up to 30 percent, a big difference.Skip to next paragraph
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"China's development is uncertain, so the future trend of CO2 emissions is uncertain too" he says. "Everybody is talking about a low carbon development path but nobody has ever taken one. The developed countries can't illustrate how it should be done."
Beijing's first steps down that path have included the shuttering of 54 gigawatts of old, small-scale, and inefficient power-generating facilities over the past three years, and raising China's overall coal-powered generating efficiency to a higher level than the US, says Professor He.
'In our own interests for sustainable development'
Chinese windpower capacity has doubled each year for the past three years, he points out, and the government plans to plant 60 billion trees – which serve as a carbon sink – by 2020.
It's not that Beijing is adopting these sorts of policies purely out of altruism, Mr. Yu adds. Alongside China's "responsible attitude," he says, "more importantly, this is in our own interests for sustainable development."
"There is no doubt that China will be one of the biggest victims of climate change," adds Yang Ailun, a global warming specialist with Greenpeace China. Popular protests against pollution are already a major concern for the government, she points out, which "leaves China with no choice but to tackle climate change.
"You do it, or you risk your social stability" she says.
China will pursue its carbon intensity goals for its own reasons, regardless of what other countries commit in Copenhagen, Mr. Xie told reporters. But he did hint that Chinese negotiators might be tempted to raise their opening bid in the negotiations.
Under Kyoto, developed countries are meant to provide developing ones with financial and technical support to help them adapt to the effects of climate change and to mitigate their own contributions to it.
No serious money is yet on the table, complains Xie, but "if we receive financial and technical support, maybe we will be able to meet our target in a better way and at a faster pace."
In the runup to Copenhagen, says Professor Delmar, "China has played the climate negotiations both tough and smart.
"If the Chinese leadership plays its cards diligently" over the next two weeks, he adds, "it will be able to come out of the climate negotiations as a winner, almost no matter what the end result will be.
"If the negotiations fail ... the developed countries will bear most of the blame," he forecasts. "And if they are a success, China will be a major part of that."
China's green leap forward: Read more here.