China appealed on Monday to exclude its giant export sector in the next treaty on climate change, as doubts grow whether the world can close ranks by a deadline of December.
Rich nations buying Chinese goods bear responsibility, a Chinese negotiator said, estimating that export production caused up to 20 percent of the Asian power’s carbon emissions.
“It is a very important item to make a fair agreement,” senior Chinese climate official Li Gao (李高) said during a visit to Washington.
Climate envoys from China, Japan and the EU were holding talks with the White House as the clock ticks to the December conference in Copenhagen meant to approve a post-Kyoto Protocol deal.
Developed nations demand that developing countries such as China and India take action under the new treaty. They had no obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, leading former US president George W. Bush to reject it.
But Li said it was unfair to put the highest burden on China, which by some measures has surpassed the US as the world’s top emitter.
“We are at the low end of the production line for the global economy,” Li told a forum.
“We produce products and these products are consumed by other countries, especially the developed countries. This share of emissions should be taken by the consumers but not the producers,” he said.
Li said Beijing was not trying to avoid action on climate change, adding that US President Barack Obama in his address to Congress last month said China “has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient.”
Li’s remarks were met with skepticism, with other negotiators saying it would be a logistical nightmare to find a way to regulate carbon emissions at exports’ destinations.
Asking importers to handle emissions “would mean that we would also like them to have jurisdiction and legislative powers in order to control and limit those,” top EU climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said.
“I’m not sure whether my Chinese colleague would agree on that particular point,” he said.
China’s chief climate official, Xie Zhenhua (謝振華), was also in Washington, where he met US global warming point man Todd Stern, who praised Beijing’s “broad work” on climate change but sought greater cooperation.
“This is a historic opportunity for both countries to contribute to a better future for the planet,” the State Department quoted Stern as saying.
But Obama has run into resistance in Congress from members of the Republican Party who say tough measures to reduce emissions would hurt the economy.
Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, which organized the forum, said that countries should be ready to accept setting only a framework in Copenhagen.
“We can still make very substantial progress toward a final agreement and perhaps the best way to do that is aiming for a strong interim agreement in Copenhagen,” she said.
Runge-Metzger said the EU believed the world now had the political will for an agreement in Copenhagen but said “it doesn’t have to be a deal that goes into each and every technical detail.”
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