A Chinese citizen's letter to the Copenhagen Climate Conference

17:38, December 11, 2009      

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How should the price of climate change be shared by the six billion people around the world? Should the huge lifestyle gap between developing and developed countries remain unchanged from one generation to another like hereditary rule?

To nation representatives at the Copenhagen Climate Conference:

You are present at the world's most important and hardest conference in recent days. We have heard the disputes among you.

I am an ordinary Chinese citizen who was born into a farming family and has lived a better life than my elder generation. Everyone expects a better life. Farmers in my hometown buy home appliances, build houses and hope to travel to the cities; the number of air-conditioners and cars are increasing in the city I live in and many people are striving to have a relatively spacious home.

However, we unfortunately live in an embarrassing era. Many Chinese people wish to live the envious European and American lifestyle they see in movies, but their plans have abruptly been called to an end. My parents living in the countryside have yet to buy a refrigerator and an air-conditioner, but they have heard that the carbon tax will be levied on these products. The factory in which one of my former classmates had worked in closed down several days ago because it could not afford to buy equipment meeting environmental standards. It is even worse for our foreign friends living on islands, as it is said that if the planet's temperature rises further by 1.5 degrees Celsius, their countries will disappear.

Both people around me and I certainly hope to have a cleaner, cooler environment with less climate disasters and are willing to pay the price that we are able to shoulder. However, what confuses me is how the price should be shared between the six billion people of the world? Should the huge lifestyle gap between developing and developed countries remain unchanged for good like hereditary rule? If so, where will our motivations for striving for the future come from?

I have been to some impoverished areas in the southwestern and northwestern parts of China. Some people there still live very tough lives and some still struggle even to have enough food and clothing. However, their living environment has already been affected by climate change; the weather has become worse, sandstorms are more severe and natural disasters are more frequent. They are experiencing the bitter fruits of rapid global development, while the people who planted the fruits and their descendents mostly lead happy lives in faraway places. They have said, "It is time to stop" to the people in the developed countries, simply because this planet cannot accommodate so much happiness.

"It is time to stop." As a person who was a farmer and has just become a city dweller, I cannot say these words according to my conscience. I do not have the right to request my folks to support other people's happiness with their own poverty and backwardness, just like I do not have the right to require rich people to give up their villas and luxury cars. What I can only do includes turning off the lights when leaving, using energy-efficient electric appliances, using less water while having a shower, wearing simple clothes…living a simple but happy life.

Fortunately, more people are joining us. They not only pursue healthy and green lifestyles, but also voluntarily visit poverty-stricken areas to spread awareness of methane and solar energy, visit arid areas to help change their traditional planting structures and go to landslide stricken areas to improve their terraces and help the local people cope with climate change. Some people have joined civil environmental organizations to supervise enterprises' emissions, optimize urban planning and safeguard people's environmental rights and interests. New phrases such as "low carbon," "carbon reduction" and "carbon footprint" are becoming more familiar to the Chinese people.

"It is not that we inherited the earth from our ancestors, but that we borrowed it from our children." All of us should take responsibility for the earth and our children with our behavior. Every effort we made will pay off in the near future, and even after we die, they will also leave deep footprints on the earth.

The Copenhagen conference originally aimed at protecting the future of man, not scrambling for power and benefit. Developed countries should be more sincere, and support developing countries in saving energy and reducing emissions financially and technically, while developing countries should try their best according their specific situations and not walk on the developed countries' old tracks. This is my opinion on jointly coping with global warming and my expectations for the conference.

By People's Daily Online
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