Greenhouse gas cuts vowed by rich nations remain far from enough to escape dangerous global warming, a top Chinese climate official said on Tuesday, urging talks over a new climate change pact to confront the shortfall.
China is the world’s biggest polluter of greenhouse gases from human activity and its emissions are sure to keep growing.
But Su Wei, the head of the climate change office at China’s National Development and Reform Commission, said wealthy countries with their much higher emissions per head of population should make space for emerging economies.
“The emissions targets of developed countries should be dramatically raised,” he told a news conference at U.N. climate talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. This, he said, would “create the room necessary for developing countries’ emissions”.
Negotiators from 177 governments are meeting in Tianjin trying to coax agreement on what should follow the current phase of the Kyoto Protocol — the key U.N. treaty on fighting global warming — which expires in 2012.
Officials in Tianjin are seeking consensus on climate funding for developing countries, policies and funds to protect carbon-absorbing forests, and transfers of green technology.
They hope that a higher level meeting in Cancun, Mexico, late this year can then settle the foundations of a binding pact that could be agreed in 2011.
Fraught negotiations last year failed to agree on a binding treaty and culminated in a bitter meeting in Copenhagen, which produced a non-binding accord that later recorded the emissions pledges of participant countries.
Talks so far this year have focused on trust-building funding goals, with little talk about countries’ targets to reduce greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and other sources blamed for heating up the atmosphere.
Su told reporters that the question of wealthy countries’ emissions targets could not be avoided at Cancun. It was good that rich nations had offered emissions cut goals as part of the Copenhagen Accord, he said. “But these goals are certainly still far removed from the expectations of developing countries and from what is required according to science,” he added.
The United Nations says the current targets would not prevent a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), which the EU and some experts have defined as the threshold of dangerous climate change auguring worsening droughts, floods and rising sea levels.
Under the Copenhagen Accord, supported by more than 110 countries, parties agreed to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels but didn’t specify a date.
“To achieve a balanced outcome at the Cancun conference, the emissions reduction targets of developed countries must be discussed,” he said. “We can’t discuss just other elements, but not discuss these emissions reductions.”
Su did not say what specific demands, if any, China could make over developed economies’ emissions goals.
President Barack Obama wants to cut the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels or 4 percent from 1990 levels. But legislation to that end has failed to win the backing of the U.S. Senate.
The European Union has offered to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels, or 30 percent if others act.
Many Western governments and quite a few developing countries want China to take on firmer international commitments eventually to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
Officials have said they hope the Tianjin talks can reach broad agreement on how to manage adaptation long-term funds and green technology to help poorer countries, as well as a shorter term infusion of $30 billion a year to help those countries.
Su said China wanted to ensure that the wealthy countries did not treat that climate aid as their money to control.
(Editing by David Fogarty)