Bangkok (AFP) May 06, 2007
Huge questions remain over China's commitment and ability to combat global warming after the surging Asian power bruised and cajoled but also charmed delegates at a UN conference, observers said. China was one of the nations most under focus at the climate change meeting in Bangkok that wrapped up on Friday with a message that the world had just a few years to act if it was to avert the worst impacts of global warming.
With carbon dioxide-spewing, coal-fired power plants generating around 70 percent of China's seemingly exponential energy needs, the world's most populous nation is now firmly entrenched as one of Earth's most crucial climate changers.
China is expected to overtake the United States as the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming anytime from now until 2010, according to the International Energy Agency.
Amid such forecasts, some of the delegates from 120 nations who attended the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's conference greeted with deep dismay China's seemingly pessimistic and obstructionist ambit at the event.
Michael Mueller, a German environment ministry official who attended the week-long talks, said after the meeting that the Chinese delegates had been "masters of deception and the art of interpretation".
China had sought more than 10 amendments to the draft summary of the IPCC's report, saying it would cost more and be much harder to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than detailed.
But the voices of dismay over China's tactics were largely silenced after it agreed to the final report, which emphasised that the world already had the money and technology to fend off the worst impacts of climate change.
Green groups and the European Union hailed the report as a historic document that showed the world had the ability to save itself from global warming.
United Nations Environment Programme spokesman Michael Williams said China had played a constructive role, and that their points were for the most part based on scientific grounds that helped improve the final report.
"Most of the interventions by China were useful," Williams told AFP.
"You could argue that some of the delegates that are most critical and difficult towards the text are the most important to the text.
"By challenging and nitpicking and asking questions, that just increases the chances of us getting a better text."
Beijing-based Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Li Yan, who attended the conference as an observer, said China had appeared to be interested in political issues at the start of the week rather than dealing with the problem.
China initially lobbied hard to insert a clause into the report that laid the blame on the greenhouse gas emissions in the past on rich nations such as the United States.
"But later on the Chinese delegates became more open, more constructive, more helpful," Li told AFP.
"The final text was improved according to the delegates' opinions, including from China."
Li said she was optimistic that China would follow some of the options laid out in the report, particularly the call to build up renewable energies and increasing energy efficiency.
China has already set some targets in these fields that are relatively close to Greenpeace's recommendations.
China has said it wants 16 percent of its energy mix to come from renewables by 2020.
It has also set targets to slash its energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent from 2006 to 2010, and to cut emissions of key water and air pollutants by 10 percent over the same period.
However China lowered its energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by just 1.2 percent last year -- against a goal of four percent -- while pollution emission levels actually rose by two percent.
Meanwhile, China continues to build coal-fired power plants at a rate of more than one a week.
earlier related report
However, China's most influential press, including the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist party, overlooked it entirely.
Weather information indicates that China is already feeling the effects of global warming.
Newspapers on Friday reported record temperatures in Beijing which saw the mercury hit 31.9 degrees (89.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on May 3, the highest in 40 years.
This followed the warmest winter on record in the Chinese capital, when temperatures rose to 16 degrees Celsius in early February, far above the normal average of around freezing.
In Bangkok on Friday, experts from 120 nations endorsed proposals made by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to fight global warming which they said were cheap and easy enough for political leaders to act on right away.
But the only Saturday report of the summit in a mainstream Chinese newspaper was in the Beijing Youth Daily which ran a five paragraph factual account on page 10 attributed to China's official news agency Xinhua.
On the Internet, the same Xinhua report was reproduced on the leading Chinese portals like Sina.com and Sohu.com.
The Bangkok report called for simple measures like switching to energy efficient light bulbs and adjusting the thermostat in the office.
But it also included extremely controversial and complex techniques such as nuclear power, and the storing of carbon dioxide -- the major greenhouse gas -- underground instead of letting it spew into the atmosphere.
Renewable energies, such as wind, solar and biofuel, were highlighted as an important part of the mix, while the experts said putting a price on using the fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases was important.
During the conference China, which fears a slowdown in its surging economic growth, had led concerns about the price of fighting global change.
Northeastern China and the Himalayan region of Tibet also witnessed abnormally high temperatures during the winter months, which were the warmest in both regions for decades.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Email This ArticleDespite Perils UN Report Upbeat On Climate Change
Bangkok (AFP) May 06, 2007
After two grim warnings on the impact of climate change, the world's top experts were unusually upbeat in assessing ways to protect the Earth, but said that national leaders have no time to waste. The report delivered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN's top authority on the subject which met in Bangkok last week, said humanity could at least slow global warming with existing, affordable technology.
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