China envoy says deep divides threaten climate talks

Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:31am GMT

* China official gloomy on climate talks progress for 2010

* Says rich nations to keep up unreasonable pressure on poor

* China to stick to CO2 curbs, rebuff "unfair" demands

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Rich and developing countries have little hope of overcoming key disagreements over how to fight global warming, China's climate change ambassador said on Wednesday, warning of a year of troubled negotiations.

China's Special Representative for Climate Change Negotiations, Yu Qingtai, said as nations seek a new global treaty on climate change by the end of 2010, major players are unlikely to budge on the issues that stymied stronger agreement at the contentious Copenhagen climate summit in late 2009.

"There may be some adjustments and shifts in the positions and tactics of the various sides, but I personally believe that on some core issues, the positions of the major parties will not undergo any substantive changes," Yu said at a meeting in Beijing on China's climate change policies.

After they failed to agree on a comprehensive pact at Copenhagen, negotiators now hope to put together a binding treaty through meetings culminating in Mexico late this year.

Yu was not hopeful.

"We can expect that in the coming year, there'll still be a mix of consensus and conflict, of cooperation and struggle, on the stage of climate diplomacy," he said. "The progress of the international negotiations faces very many difficulties."

Yu's comments added to recent gloomy forecasts for the climate negotiations, an issue that could add to tensions with the United States.

Agreeing a U.N. climate treaty in 2010 will be "very difficult", the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, Yvo de Boer, said on Tuesday. [ID:nLDE61M1MH]

DISPUTES

China has passed the United States to become the biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. Yet China is a developing country with average greenhouse gas output per person far lower than in wealthy countries.

That dual status has put Beijing at the heart of disputes with the United States, European Union and other rich economies about how developed and big developing countries should share out burdens for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Also crucial is how much international scrutiny should apply to the emissions actions of big developing nations.

In Copenhagen, China and other poorer countries accused the West of offering too little in the way of emissions cuts and climate funds and technology to the Third World.

Britain, Sweden and other countries accused China of obstructing stronger agreement at the Copenhagen summit, which ended with a non-binding accord. [ID:nLDE5BI00Z]

China should not expect wealthy countries to change their tune this year, said Yu.

"I believe that there won't be any substantive change in the developed countries' settled policy of shifting blame to the developing countries," he said.

"They will continue pressuring the developing countries to shoulder unreasonable responsibilities."

The speeches by Yu and other Chinese climate policy officials were published online by an official news website (www.china.com.cn).

Yu said China and other developing countries would defend their right to grow their economies without taking on internationally binding emissions targets.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said on Tuesday he was committed to fighting climate change and pressing forward with a domestic goal to cut carbon intensity. [ID:nTOE61M081]

China has vowed to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas from human activity -- emitted to create each unit of economic worth by 40-45 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels.

This goal would let China's greenhouse gas emissions keep rising, but more slowly than economic growth.

But Hu also said Beijing was committed to the "common but differentiated" principle: that developing countries should take action to fight climate change, but not assume the internationally binding emissions targets that developed countries must shoulder under U.N.-backed climate treaties.

Yu said negotiators should not expect China to budge.

"When it comes to responsibilities that we should not assume, that harm our national interests, we will resolutely hold out, no matter how much pressure there is in the negotiations," said Yu. (Editing by David Fogarty)




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