China must cut greenhouse gas emissions to slow global warming, even as the world's fourth largest economy tries to maintain fast economic growth, a senior climate official said.
Luo Yong, vice director of the National Climate Center, told a press conference on Thursday that "if we took no measures against global warming, China's planting industry would face a 5-10 percent drop in output by 2030, with production of wheat, rice and corn on the decline."
Luo's hypothesis suggests that the effects of global warming could make it increasingly difficult for the world's most populous nation to feed itself.
The press conference was held on the heels of a report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warned that the impact of global warming could be "abrupt or irreversible" and no country would be spared -- the starkest warning yet by the Nobel-winning group.
"Further global warming will bring about more extreme incidents, like floods and droughts, destabilizing China's agricultural production," said Luo. "Higher temperature will send up costs in irrigation, pesticides and fertilizers."
"The earlier we take action, the smaller our losses will be," Luo added.
Luo's remarks were echoed by Zheng Guoguang, director of the China Meteorological Administration, who said the Chinese government had always attached great importance to climate change and 28 Chinese experts were sent to take part in compiling the IPCC report.
On the previous day, climate change and environmental issues took center stage in Premier Wen Jiabao's address at the 3rd East Asia Summit in Singapore. The Chinese government takes environmental protection as a basic state policy, said Wen.
The Party Congress report delivered by President Hu Jintao last month also highlighted China's resolve to tackle the long-term challenges of global warming.
"China is a responsible country, willing to make sincere efforts to fulfill its international obligations to protect the global climate," said Zheng.
As a developing country, China is not obligated to meet targetsset by the Kyoto Protocol, under which 36 industrial nations must cut emissions by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels during the period 2008-2012.
But the Chinese government has realized it must do its part, since the country has become one of the two biggest carbon dioxide emitters, along with the United States.
Carbon dioxide, produced by burning fossil fuels, is believed to be a major contributor to global warming.
China aims to cut energy consumption for every 10,000 yuan (1,298 U.S. dollars) of GDP by 20 percent by 2010, with emissions to drop 10 percent.
To gear up for the Olympics next year, Beijing is leading the way, with 140 highly polluting enterprises shut down this year alone and hundreds of millions of yuan spent in reducing emissions.
"The international community is concerned about China's emissions, which are huge as a whole and have triggered some criticism," said Song Dong, an official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"But misunderstandings exist," he said. "I don't think you should look at the total amount and ignore the per capita figure. It is not scientific to compare China, with a population of 1.3 billion, with a country of 200 million or tens of millions."
Reduction targets for developed nations beyond 2012 should be set as soon as possible, he added. Further, there should be an increase in technological transfers and financial aid to developing nations to help them tackle climate change.
The ministry's spokesman Liu Jianchao said later in the day that no mandatory targets should be set for developing nations though they should also bear the responsibility of reducing emissions.