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. China says no to greenhouse gas cuts after talks with US

Japan's emissions cut pledge falls short: Beijing
China Thursday attacked Japan's recently announced pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions as inadequate in the face of the current climate change challenge. Japan announced Wednesday it planned to reduce emissions by 15 percent by 2020 compared with 2005, the equivalent of an eight percent cut from 1990 levels -- a goal criticised as too little by environmentalists. "According to our calculation, the new target equates to only a two percentage point advance from Japan's previous pledge in the first commitment period," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters. "This target is actually far from the present task of tackling climate change as well as the aspiration of the international community." Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan had promised to reduce its 1990 emissions by six percent by the end of 2012, or the first commitment period. "We believe the international community can make an objective and fair assessment of Japan's new target," Qin said. China has so far refused to accept a binding or compulsory target on emissions reduction, arguing it is a developing country that still needs to grow its economy and alleviate poverty.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 11, 2009
China will not accept binding cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions, an official said Thursday, after the United States said it made progress with Beijing in talks here on a global climate pact.

The comments came after a visit by US climate change envoy Todd Stern aimed at pressing the Asian giant to commit to hard numbers on emissions reductions ahead of December talks in Copenhagen on a new global warming treaty.

"China is still a developing country and the present task confronting China is to develop its economy and alleviate poverty, as well as raise the living standard of its people," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

"Given that, it is natural for China to have some increase in its emissions, so it is not possible for China in that context to accept a binding or compulsory target."

China and the United States are the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Earlier, the United States issued a statement describing the meetings as "a step in the right direction on the road to Copenhagen and to charting a global path to a clean energy future."

"We deepened our dialogue with our Chinese counterparts through a candid discussion of the challenges we must overcome and the opportunities we must seize if we and the world are to reach an international climate agreement," it said.

During his four-day visit, Stern met key Chinese officials including Vice Premier Li Keqiang and climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua.

In an interview with the state English-language China Daily, Stern indicated he had backed down on insisting that China adopt a binding cap on emissions.

"We don't expect China to take a national cap at this stage," the China Daily quoted Stern as saying.

"We understand China's paramount need to grow and develop for its people... our demand is that the development with the available technologies is based on low carbon growth."

As part of ongoing global negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012, China has said the bulk of the responsibility for emissions cuts lies with developed nations.

It has pledged to play a constructive role in the negotiations in Copenhagen, while implementing domestic energy targets and developing alternative and clean energies.

Such efforts have been "very impressive," the paper quoted Stern as saying. The US negotiator added he believed that China was "willing to do more".

Officials at the US embassy in Beijing refused to immediately comment on Stern's interview with the China Daily.

Last week, Stern said in a speech in Washington: "China and other developing countries do not need to take the same actions that developed nations are taking.

"But they do need to take significant national actions that they commit to internationally, that they quantify and that are ambitious enough to be broadly consistent with the lessons of science."

The US refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol largely due to a lack of commitments by developing nations to cut emissions.

earlier related report
Japan defends its emissions cut target against criticism
Japan on Thursday defended its greenhouse gas reduction target against attacks from environmental groups who labelled it as dangerously low and a gift to the country's industrial lobby.

Prime Minister Taro Aso "made the best decision possible, after considering the balance between what is feasible and the protection of the global environment," Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.

Green groups ridiculed the conservative premier as "George W. Aso" after he said Wednesday Japan would seek to cut its emissions by 2020 by the equivalent of eight percent on 1990 levels, the benchmark year for UN talks.

Critics also charged Aso was using a "smokescreen" by promising a 15 percent cut of heat-trapping gases from the base year of 2005.

Kawamura, the top government spokesman, defended the plan, stressing that -- unlike the United States and European Union -- Japan would not factor in carbon-trading and planting forests that absorb carbon dioxide.

"Japan has set the unique goal of 15 percent based only on its effort of cutting emissions, which I don't think is fully understood," he told reporters.

"We have not included emission cuts through carbon trade or forestation. If this point is understood well, I think Japan will take a leading role" in the UN talks set to hammer out a new climate treaty this year, he said.

The agreement expected in Copenhagen seeks to tackle emissions beyond 2012, when the current provisions of the Kyoto Protocol expire.

Activists at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany, earlier unveiled a giant photo of a "George W. Aso," a composite portrait of Aso and former US president George W. Bush, a bogeyman to environmentalists.

Greenpeace accused Aso of kowtowing to heavy industry by failing to set a tougher figure, calculating that Aso's goal could help doom Earth to catastrophic warming of three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Japanese newspapers were divided on the new emissions target.

The Yomiuri Shimbun argued for "fairness" and said Japan had already achieved higher levels of energy efficiency than other rich countries.

But the Nikkei business daily said in an editorial that the goal "lacks sufficient impact to push the talks... toward preventing global warming."

The liberal Asahi Shimbun said the target was below global expectations and would not be enough to "convince emerging nations China and India to get more committed to cut their large emissions."

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Climate pledges bound to breach key warming target: scientists
Bonn, Germany (AFP) June 11, 2009
Pledges currently on the table at the UN climate talks will doom Earth to a warming of more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a figure that has been widely endorsed as a safe limit, scientists said on Thursday. Warming "is virtually certain to exceed 2 C" (3.6 F) compared to pre-industrial times, said their assessment of national positions. The study was published online ... read more

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