Join our Mailing List

"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China pre-empts Durban conference with boasts on green progress

November 30, 2011

White paper outlining China's recent achievements seen as attempt to minimise blame if talks in Durban break down

China's climate negotiators fired off a pre-emptive volley on Wednesday, with the most detailed report to date on the progress the country has made to ease greenhouse gases, and the strategy it will adopt at next week's climate talks in Durban.
With the world's biggest carbon emitter expected to come under intense pressure in South Africa, the government released the white paper to highlight its achievements on renewables, afforestation and industrial efficiency, and set the stage for closer collaboration with Europe and developing nations.
It is both a last-ditch attempt to salvage a deal and a political insurance policy aimed at minimising blame – and most likely deflecting it to the US – if the talks break down.
The document released by the State Council – China's cabinet – contained no new details, but it spelled out the measures the government has taken to meet the commitment made at Copenhagen: a reduction in carbon emissions relative to GDP by 40-45% between 2005 and 2020.
The paper also spells out the steps that will be taken over the next five years to increase forest cover by 12.5m hectares and lift the non-fossil fuel share of energy consumption to 11.4%.
Despite widespread pessimism about the prospects for a deal, Xie Zhenhua, the head of the Chinese delegation to Durban, said China wanted to overcome the impasse between rich and poor countries by getting Europe to commit to a renewal of the Kyoto Protocol, and other nations – who are unwilling to sign – to make comparable voluntary cuts or provide technology and financial assistance.
Xie said an extension to the Kyoto Protocol – the first commitment phase of which is currently set to end in 2012 – was crucial: "How to solve this problem is actually a very central, very key problem at the Durban meeting".
A comprehensive deal still looks elusive and the Guardian reported this week that rich countries have privately admitted that no new global climate agreement will be reached before 2016 at the earliest, but hopes have been rekindled by signs that Europe, China and the G77 group of developing nations have been working constructively in recent months. There is a faint possibility that Europe may agree to a new commitment period if China and the G77 promise to accept binding cuts by 2015 or 2020.
Yang Fuqiang, senior climate adviser to the US-based Natural Resource Defence Council, said the paper showed a more co-operative and transparent approach.
"This new white paper shows China's new policy towards climate change is more constructive, more flexible," he said. "This white paper will help to release the pressure if China is unfairly accused in Durban."
Other NGO analysts concurred. Wu Changhua, the greater China director of the Climate Group, said: "I don't think this white paper will influence the process of the Durban conference, but it is a form of communication with the world. It shows what China has done."
Other observers saw hints of a more fundamental shift, including a recognition by the government that its existing approach is insufficient because the economy is growing so fast that even if China achieves its carbon intensity goals the overall amount of emissions will surge.
Li Yan of Greenpeace said she was encouraged that Xie was talking openly about the need to control total energy consumption, rather than just its intensity relative to GDP.
"I think Xie admitted the China's energy structure is the big problem for China carbon emission. To control the use of coal energy is key to control carbon emissions," Li said. "The central government has the policy, but the problem is how to implement it."
But most noted the strategic role of the paper in highlight how much China has done in recent years compared to the US and other so-called "boulder nations" that are increasingly seen as obstacles to progress.
• Additional research by Cecily Huang

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank