China Environmental News Digest

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

China preparing plan to combat warming

Monday, February 5, 2007

China is preparing its first plan to battle climate change, a senior policy adviser said, stressing rising alarm about global warming in a country where economic growth has gone unchecked.

Zou Ji, a climate policy expert at the People's University of China in Beijing, said the national program would probably set broad goals for emissions and coping with changing weather patterns.

It is likely to be released this year after at least two years of preparation and bureaucratic bargaining, he said.

"All this shows that the Chinese government is paying more and more attention to this issue," he said. "When it's approved and issued it will be China's first official, comprehensive document on climate change."

Last week a UN panel of scientists warned that human activity is almost certainly behind global warming.

The expert group gave a "best estimate" that temperatures would rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 Celsius (3.2 and 7.8 Fahrenheit) in the 21st century, bringing more droughts, heat waves and a rise in sea levels that could continue for over 1,000 years even if greenhouse gas emissions are capped.

China could become the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases by 2009, overtaking the United States, according to the International Energy Agency.

Beijing's public reaction to the panel's finding has been muted, but behind the scenes the government is paying attention to the raft of warnings, said Zou, who has been a member of Chinese delegations to international climate talks since 2000.

Pan Yue, a vice minister of China's State Environmental Protection Administration, said wealthy countries bore most responsibility for cutting emissions but added that China would contribute, China Business News reported Monday.

"As a responsible great power, China won't evade its duty," Pan told the paper. "There's tremendous pressure to reduce emissions, but this won't be solved overnight."

Zou said the program was awaiting approval from the State Council after being vetted by over a dozen ministries and agencies, but preparations for a major Communist Party congress later this year may slow its release.

The dilemma facing President Hu Jintao is how to translate concern into policies that deliver growth and jobs while cutting fossil fuel use and greenhouse gases, said Alan Dupont, an expert on climate change and security at the University of Sydney.

"The whole stability of the regime and, as Hu would see it, the future of his country, depends on the continuation of economic growth of 8 percent and 9 percent," Dupont said.

"But the realization is dawning on them that China will not get to where it wants to go unless it deals with climate change."

Few major policy shifts are advertised beforehand in China. But there have been growing signs that Beijing is worried about how global warming could frustrate ambitions for prosperity, stability and influence.

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