October 23, 2008

China Agrees To Meet About Climate Pact Goal

The prime minister of Denmark said on Thursday that China is committed to seeking a climate change pact at key talks next year, and he urged countries not to use global economic upheaval as a reason for delaying a deal.

European leaders are meeting in Beijing for an Asia-Europe meeting on climate change.

As Copenhagen is set to host end-game talks late next year on a new climate change pact, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been courting China, with its bulging output of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas behind global warming.

On Thursday, Rasmussen said he had emerged from talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao the previous day with a commitment that China is "committed to reaching agreement in Copenhagen."

"The two sides ... affirmed the common goal to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision at the climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009," he said.

The new negotiations are a global attempt to create a treaty building on the current Kyoto Protocol climate pact that expires at the end of 2012. Its host role has given Denmark an unusual prominence in seeking agreement.

Rasmussen said China's commitment was an encouraging sign to others during a time when the world is increasingly preoccupied with the financial crisis and its fallout causing many issues dividing rich countries from poor ones over how to combat global warming.

Other countries should not use the economic downturn as a reason to delay or stymie a new pact, Rasmussen said. He believes increased spending on environmentally friendly technology could help stimulate an economic rebound.

"No doubt, the financial crisis will be used as an excuse to water down the climate change agenda," said Rasmussen.

Delaying tackling climate change because of the crisis was not acceptable, said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. He has called on China to join in the fight.

"Yes, there is a cost to reducing emissions. But the cost of climate change is going to be far higher, including for China," he said in a speech.

"It is important that efforts to combat climate change stay on track, despite the financial crisis we are facing."

China and other developing nations under the current Kyoto pact do not have to agree limits on their output of the greenhouse gases from industry, vehicles and land-use that are dangerously warming the atmosphere.

But experts believe China's fast-rising emissions far outstrip the United States' and have driven other countries to say it must accept firmer limits.

Developing countries should commit to keep emissions 15 to 30 percent below unconstrained "business as usual" levels, EU environment ministers said this week.

The EU proposal, which would not set an absolute ceiling on poorer countries' emissions but oblige them to take measurable steps, could be the way to draw China and other developing countries into the commitments, Rasmussen said.

"The contributions from the industrialized countries will not be enough," he said. "We need engagement from the big emerging economies."

The 27 EU member states and the European Commission will also discuss climate change policy with Japan, China and India and 13 other Asian countries during the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) opening on Friday.

Rasmussen said he also hopes that meeting will agree on aiming for a pact in Copenhagen.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia