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China vows cuts to greenhouse gases, laments U.S. absence at Kyoto Protocol
The Chinese government said Wednesday that despite being one of the world's worst polluters, it was already cutting greenhouse gases and called on the United States to join the global community under the Kyoto Protocol to protect the earth's atmosphere.

Beijing rejected Washington's criticism of the international accord, which the United States has refused to join because developing nations such as China and India are not held to the same mandatory greenhouse gas emissions caps as the industrialized nations.

"You cannot live without using energy," Sun Guoshun, director of the Department of Treaty and Law at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Associated Press in an interview.

It was unfair to expect China and India -- with the world's largest populations -- to ask their more impoverished communities to cut back on energy consumption, Sun said.

"Human beings have to have a (certain) amount for making a living," Sun said. "So these emissions, I think, are not even enough to meet their basic living conditions."

The 140 parties to the landmark treaty, which was signed in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto in 1997 and went into effect this February, were meeting for the first time under the flag of the U.N. Climate Change Conference here in Montreal.

The conference Wednesday finalized the so-called "rule book" of the Kyoto Protocol, formally launching greenhouse emissions cuts and mechanisms that will allow developed countries to earn carbon-reduction credits by investing in sustainable development projects in other countries.

"The Kyoto Protocol is now fully operational. This is an historic step," pronounced Canada's Environment Minister Stephane Dion, also president of the conference.

The Kyoto agreement targets carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases blamed for rising global temperatures and disrupted weather patterns. It calls on the top 35 industrialized nations to cut emissions to 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

Harlan Watson, the senior climate negotiator for the U.S. Department of State, said Washington, however, would not be party to any agreement with legally binding targets.

"There's more than one way to address climate change," Watson said. "The idea that you have to be bound by a Kyoto-like structure to address the issue, we believe is a fallacious one."

The United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, says the accord is flawed by the lack of restrictions on emissions by emerging economies. President George W. Bush instead has called for an 18 percent reduction in the U.S. growth rate of greenhouse gases by 2012 and has committed $5 billion a year on science and technology to combat global warming.

Washington has been universally denounced by environmental groups at the conference, not only for turning its back on Kyoto, but also for saying it won't take part in any negotiations for commitments to greenhouse cuts after the first phase of Kyoto expires in 2012.

"We really feel pity that the U.S. has not yet, and is not going to join the Kyoto Protocol, not only because of the size of its total emissions, but also because of its higher per capita emissions," said Sun.

The Bush administration said Kyoto would cost the U.S. economy $400 billion and almost 5 million jobs, while excluding China and India from mandatory emission caps.

China is a major world polluter. Carbon emissions are soaring as the middle class grows and gobbles up gasoline-burning cars. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that at least one major power plant is completed in China each week, typically fueled by coal.

Many cities, including Beijing, are thick with air pollution and large regions have been hit by drought, failing crops and sandstorms linked to global warming.

Sun noted that while China is the world's second-greatest emitter of greenhouse gases -- though far behind the United States -- it also has the largest population, 1.3 billion people.

He noted that China's annual production of carbon dioxide was 2.6 tons per 1,000 people, while the average was 19 tons per capita in the United States.

He said the "overriding priorities" for China and India were development and poverty irradiation and said the United States and other developed nations had not done nearly enough to aid developing countries with cheap sustainable development projects.

Sun said that China's GDP had risen fourfold from 1980 to 2000. "But the energy consumption only doubled, so that shows big efforts by the Chinese government," he said.

Sun said China's next five-year plan on national development, running from 2006 to 2010, sets the objective of raising energy efficiency by 20 percent during that period.

More than 8,000 environmentalists, scientists and government officials were attending the 10-day conference in Montreal. Some 120 environment ministers and other government leaders were expected to arrive next week for the final negotiations. (AP)

Source: Mainichi Daily News

greenhouse gases
Air Quality in Chinese Cities
Courtesy of VECC-SEPA


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