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Host China plugs its climate efforts at UN talks

by Staff Writers
Tianjin, China (AFP) Oct 7, 2010
China has seized on its hosting of UN climate talks this week to showcase its efforts to curb carbon emissions, and environmentalists say the top greenhouse gas polluter is making huge progress.

China's phenomenal economic growth has made it the biggest source of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, and those emissions will continue to soar due to its dependence on carbon-belching coal.

But amid US-led pressure to do more, China has outlined an array of measures to curb emissions that environmentalists say helps its bargaining position in United Nations negotiations on a global warming treaty.

And while China was blamed by some rich nations for the failure of a climate summit in Copenhagen last year, few are developing clean energies as aggressively, say experts at the week-long talks in the city of Tianjin.

"The Chinese are out of the starting blocks and the United States is still taking off its sweatsuit," said Jake Schmidt, global climate policy director for the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

China says in the past five years it has phased out obsolete and inefficient power plants equal to the power capacity of Britain.

It last year invested a world-leading 34.6 billion dollars in clean energy initiatives -- 30 percent of the global total and nearly double US spending.

The government has said another 738 billion dollars will be spent in the next decade.

Its ambitious renewable energy goals, backed with both incentives and mandatory targets, saw China become the leading manufacturer of wind turbines last year.

It became number three in the world in installed wind power capacity and is expected to pass the United States and Germany to take the top spot in 2010.

China also is on course to become a world leader in several other areas such as carbon capture.

On the macro-level, China has set a 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product -- or carbon intensity -- by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels.

China has held a series of press events in Tianjin to highlight its clean energy efforts, the latest salvo in its decades-long dispute with rich nations in which each side insists the other should do more to fight global warming.

"Our efforts have been tremendous and so have the achievements," China's top climate official Xie Zhenhua told reporters in Tianjin on Monday.

If China can hit its target of improving its energy efficiency this year, it would have avoided emitting about 4.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from 2006-2010, according to the US-based Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

China's 2007 emissions were 6.5 billion tonnes.

The Tianjin event is a prelude to a UN summit starting next month in Mexico, where countries will again try to make progress on forging a global climate change treaty.

Yang Ailun, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace China, said Beijing's clean energy efforts had given it a stronger hand in the negotiations.

"China has been doing a lot at home and this has given them more leverage, especially when the United States seems to be backtracking. China is in a rather comfortable position right now," she said.

China's clean energy policies however still attract criticism because its emissions will continue to rise for years as its expanding economy gobbles up energy, 70 percent of which comes from coal.

The United States and other developing nations also remain frustrated over China's refusal to commit through the UN process to emission reduction targets.

Nevertheless, merely continuing with the measures of the past five years would reduce China's carbon intensity 37 percent by 2020, said Barbara Finamore, the NRDC's China director.

She said Beijing was expected to announce further aggressive steps for the next five years in 2011.

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WWF: Little hope for climate protection
Berlin (UPI) Oct 6, 2010
Worldwide pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are falling far short of what's needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, environmental group WWF warned Wednesday, urging negotiators meeting in China to reverse that trend. Under current policy settings, emissions could be "up to nearly one-third more in 2020 than the trend needed to avoid" dangerous climate change, WWF said in a ... read more

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