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China says US could hold up climate deal

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 18, 2009
China pressed Wednesday for the US Congress to pass legislation to fight global warming, warning that inaction could hold up a new treaty slated for Copenhagen in December.

China's chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua held talks in Washington with the administration of President Barack Obama, who has vowed action to slow the planet's warming in a sharp reversal from his predecessor George W. Bush.

A UN-led conference in the Danish capital in December is meant to approve a new global warming treaty for the period after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's obligations to cut carbon emissions expire.

But Xie said China -- by many measures now the world's biggest emitter -- was still waiting to see rich nations' commitments before putting its own ideas on the negotiating table.

"The difficulty in reaching an accord is how can we reach the mid-term goals," Xie said.

"Canada has not yet issued emission figures to meet its commitments. The United States is in the same boat -- there is just talk but no action," he told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"The key point is whether Congress will pass a bill or not," Xie said.

Xie said that China was also waiting for rich nations to provide funding and technology to fight climate change.

"Once these prerequisites are realized, then I believe China will move aggressively," Xie said.

China has already launched a drive to improve energy efficiency. The Kyoto Protocol makes no demands of developing nations -- a sticking point that led Bush to shun the treaty.

Obama supports a so-called "cap-and-trade" system of the sort practiced by the European Union that restricts emissions and allows trading of credits, thereby creating an economic incentive for companies to go green.

But some lawmakers of the rival Republican Party equate it to a national sales tax and say it would hurt an economy already suffering a historic crisis.

Energy Secretary Stephen Chu has warned that the United States could slap duties on products from countries that do not curb carbon emissions, saying it would level the playing field for US industry.

Such a move would be sure to anger China and other emerging economies such as India.

Taking a different approach, Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell said she would introduce legislation calling on both the United States and China to eliminate tariffs on exports of green technology.

Such a "clean energy free-trade zone" would allow the world's two biggest polluters to cooperate and spur healthy competition, she told the forum with Xie.

"Rather than competing with China for ever-shrinking foreign energy reserves, we could combine our market opportunity and turbo-charge promising nascent clean energy technologies," she said.

Top climate negotiators meet later this month in Bonn, Germany to lay the groundwork for the Copenhagen conference, with differences mounting.

In the developed world, the European Union has offered the most ambitious goals. It has committed to reducing emissions by 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels and promised to do more if other rich nations get on board.

But the European Union has faced accusations of backtracking on promises of green technology to the developing world.

Japan plans to unveil its mid-term goals in June. With Bush's departure, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has emerged as the rich world's most skeptical leader on climate action.

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China appeals to exclude exports in climate deal
Washington (AFP) March 16, 2009
China appealed Monday to exclude its giant export sector in the next treaty on climate change, as doubts grow whether the world can close ranks by a deadline of December.

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