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Print Edition> World
UPDATED: December 6, 2010 NO. 49 DECEMBER 9, 2010
Taking Responsibility for Climate Change
The Cancun conference still tries to decide the future situation in dealing with emissions

CHINA'S STANCE: Su Wei, deputy head of the Chinese Delegation and Director General of the Climate Change Department of the National Development and Reform Commission, answers journalists' questions at the Cancun conference on November 29 (BAO FEIFEI)

Su Wei, deputy head of the Chinese Delegation to Cancun and Director General of the Climate Change Department of the NDRC, said China would continue to stick to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Roadmap. He said he hoped the meeting in Cancun would build on past achievements and yield positive results in all related fields.

China expected the ongoing UN climate change conference to produce balanced progress, especially on four core issues of mitigation, adaptation, financial support and technology transfer.

"Cancun is an important step in the international process of dealing with climate change," Su said. The conference could "bear real fruit" on the four key issues and lay a solid foundation for future negotiations and the final achievement of a legally binding treaty.

"I am against bargaining over the climate change issue. Each party should be clear about its duty and try its best on the basis of its own capability to handle the grave challenge to all of mankind," Su said.

Developed countries should take the major responsibility for climate change and shoulder their due obligations, as unrestrained emissions during their 200-year industrialization process was largely to blame for the global warming, he said.

China's stand basically represents those of the developing countries.

The developed world should take the lead in cutting emissions due to their historic responsibility for climate change, Sergio B. Serra, Brazilian Ambassador for Climate Change, told Beijing Review in Cancun.

Meanwhile, Brazil appreciates the constructive role that China has played in the negotiations and voluntary efforts of the country to cut emissions, he said.

Obstacles and solutions

Although most countries in the world have realized the importance of carbon emissions reduction to climate changes, experts were conservatively optimistic about the Cancun conference.

Wang from the CIIS said the current divisions on climate change would be hard to break. He listed three obstacles to this situation.

First, last year's Copenhagen conference failed to reach a clear goal. Participating countries did not set a mid-term carbon emissions reduction target by 2020, nor was a long-term target by 2050 set for developed countries in the resolution of the UN Climate Change Negotiations. The resolution also did not clearly set regulations on capital support and technology transfer issues, the biggest concerns of developing countries.

Second, mutual trust between developed and developing countries was ruined during the Copenhagen conference because of the big gap between the two groups' stances, probably negating any agreement at Cancun.

Wang said participants should be practical and try to deal with simpler problems such as capital, forestry and technology transfer, in which there was greater understanding between countries.

Third, the major negotiators do not want to make unrealistic or grandiose promises because of the slow global economic recovery. This may lead to slow progress of climate negotiations. Wang reiterated developed countries were responsible for the greatest amounts of carbon emissions in history. Their per-capita carbon emissions still remained very high, with most of the emissions produced by Western lifestyles and over consumption, he said.

Developed countries committed the original offenses against the environment during their industrialization, said Yan Xuetong, Director of the Institute of International Studies, Tsinghua University. While they were enjoying the unrestricted privilege of carbon emissions, developing countries barely had any modern industry or transportation, Yan said.

Statistics show among the historical carbon emissions accumulation between 1850 and 2004 of Group Eight (G8) and five developing nations of China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, China's emissions contribution covered only 10.8 percent, but the United States covered 40 percent. Besides, China's historical per-capita accumulated contribution rate is only 1 percent, while that of the United States is 21.3 percent, Canada, 16 percent, and the United Kingdom, 16.4 percent. Currently, per-capita energy consumption of the United States still tops all other countries, and is five times as large as China's. In the meantime, the United States is the biggest oil consumer in the world with a daily demand for 19 million barrels, double that of China's.

"Developed countries should take practical moves to atone from their deeds in history instead of shuffling all the responsibilities on to developing countries," said Yan.

The UN should set several principles to cope with climate change aimed at building a just and rational carbon emissions order. Countries should set principles of reciprocity of rights and duties for carbon emissions through negotiation. Just and rational inspection principles and a widely accepted carbon emissions standard are also crucial, said Yan.

(Reporting from Beijing and Cancun)

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