Premier expresses China's sincerity at UN climate conference

08:50, December 19, 2009      

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Friday that China had made unremitting efforts and a positive contribution to the global fight against climate change through energy conservation and pollution reduction.

Wen made the remarks in a speech titled "Build Consensus and Strengthen Cooperation to Advance the Historical Process of Combating Climate Change" at the opening session of the leaders' meeting of the U.N. climate change conference.

In the wide-ranging speech, the premier detailed the efforts China had made to reduce emissions, the progress that had been made to date, its future commitments and how it would achieve them, the difficulties it faced, and the need to stay true to the Kyoto Protocol and the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities.

"China has taken climate change very seriously in the course of its development," he said.

"Bearing in mind the fundamental interests of the Chinese people and mankind's long-term development, we have exerted unremitting effort and made a positive contribution to the fight against climate change," the Chinese premier told delegates from around the world.

Wen said China had focused on four major areas in recent years to protect the environment: laws and regulations, energy conservation and pollution reduction, new energy and renewable energy, and forestation.

"We have improved the taxation system and advanced the pricing reform of resource products with a view to putting in place at an early date a pricing mechanism that is responsive to market supply and demand, resource scarcity level and the cost of environmental damage," he said.

China had introduced 10 major energy conservation projects and launched an energy conservation campaign involving 1,000 enterprises, bringing energy-saving action to industry, transportation, construction and other key sectors, the premier said.

Wen said: "We have implemented pilot projects for a circular economy, promoted energy-saving and environment-friendly vehicles and supported the use of energy-saving products by ordinary households through government subsidies."

The Chinese government had worked hard to phase out backward production facilities that were energy intensive and heavily polluting, Wen said. He added that the inefficient production capacity that China eliminated between 2006 and 2008 stood at 60.59 million tons for iron, 43.47 million tons for steel, 140 million tons for cement and 64.45 million tons for coke.

"By the end of the first half of this year, China's energy consumption per unit of GDP (gross domestic product) had dropped by 13 percent from the 2005 level, equivalent to reducing 800 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions," Wen said.

The premier stressed that China had recorded the world's fastest growth in the adoption of new energy and renewable energy and had the largest area of man-made forests.

"On the basis of protecting the eco-environment, we have developed hydro power in an orderly way, actively developed nuclear power, and encouraged and supported the development of renewable energy, including biomass, solar and geothermal energy and wind power in the countryside, remote areas and other places with the right conditions," Wen said.

Between 2005 and 2008, renewable energy in China increased by 51 percent, representing an annual growth rate of 14.7 percent and in 2008, the use of renewable energy reached an equivalent of 250 million tons of standard coal, the Chinese premier said in his speech.

He said a total of 30.5 million rural households gained access to bio-gas, equivalent to a reduction of 49 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

China ranked first in the world in terms of installed hydro power capacity, nuclear power capacity under construction, the coverage of solar water heating panels and photovoltaic power capacity, Wen said.

In addition, China had continued with "the largest-scale endeavor to return farmland to forest and expand a forestation, and made vigorous efforts to increase the forest carbon sink," the Chinese premier said.

Between 2003 and 2008, China's forest coverage registered a net increase of 20.54 million hectares and forest stock volume rose by1.123 billion cubic meters. The total area of man-made forests in China had reached 54 million hectares, the largest in the world, he said.

Wen said China had not attached any condition to its target for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions or linked it to the target of any other country. He said it was with a sense of responsibility to the Chinese people and mankind that the Chinese government had set the target for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

"This is a voluntary action China has taken in light of its national circumstances," Wen said.

"We will honor our word with real action. Whatever outcome this conference may produce, we will be fully committed to achieving and even exceeding the target."

Wen said a long-term perspective and a focus on the present were needed in tackling climate change.

"In tackling climate change, we need to take a long-term perspective but, more importantly, we should focus on the present. The Kyoto Protocol has clearly set out the emission reduction targets for developed countries in the first commitment period by 2012," Wen said.

However, a review of implementation showed the emissions from many developed countries had increased rather than decreased and the mid-term reduction targets, announced by developed countries recently, fell considerably short of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requirements and the expectations of the international community, the Chinese premier said.

"It is necessary to set a direction for our long-term efforts, but it is even more important to focus on achieving near-term and mid-term reduction targets, honoring the commitments already made and taking real action," Wen said.

The UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol reflected a broad consensus among all parties and therefore must be further strengthened, he said.

"The UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol are the outcomes of long and hard work by all countries" and the two documents reflected the broad consensus among all parties and served as the legal basis and guide for international cooperation on climate change, Wen said.

So the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol "must be highly valued and further strengthened and developed," he said.

Wen said the outcome of the Copenhagen conference must stick to, rather than obscure, the basic principles enshrined in the convention and the protocol and it must follow, rather than deviate from, the mandate of the "Bali Roadmap."

"It should lock up rather than deny the consensus and progress already achieved in the negotiations," Wen said.

The premier said China's population of 1.3 billion presented a special difficulty in cutting emissions but it would do whatever was within its capacity to address global climate change.

China's per capita GDP had only just exceeded 3,000 U.S. dollars and, according to U..N standards, China still had 150 million people living below the poverty line.

The premier said China faced the arduous task of developing the economy and improving people's livelihoods.

"China is now at an important stage of accelerated industrialization and urbanization, and, given the predominant role of coal in our energy mix, we are confronted with a special difficulty in emissions reduction," Wen said.

However, China had always regarded addressing climate change as an important strategic task, he said, adding that, between 1990and 2005, China's carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP were reduced by 46 percent.

"Building on that, we have set the new target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level," Wen told delegates from all across the world.

"To reduce carbon dioxide emissions on such a large scale and over such an extended period of time will require tremendous efforts on our part. Our target will be incorporated into China's mid- and long-term plan for national economic and social development as a mandatory one to ensure that its implementation is subject to supervision by the law and public opinion," Wen said.

"We will further enhance the domestic statistical, monitoring and evaluation methods, improve the way emissions reduction information is released, increase transparency and actively engage in international exchange, dialogue and cooperation," the Chinese premier said.

He stressed that the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" was the core and bedrock of international cooperation on climate change and must never be compromised.

He pointed out that developed countries were responsible for 80percent of the total global carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution over 200 years ago.

"If we all agree that carbon dioxide emissions are the direct cause for climate change, then it is all too clear who should take the primary responsibility," he said.

Developing countries only started industrialization a few decades ago and many of their people still live in abject poverty today, Wen said, "it is totally unjustified to ask them to undertake emission reduction targets beyond their due obligations and capabilities in disregard of historical responsibilities, per capita emissions and different levels of development."

Developed countries, which are already leading an affluent life, still maintain a level of per capita emissions that is far higher than that of developing countries, and most of their emissions are attributed to consumption, Wen said.

In comparison, emissions from developing countries were primarily survival emissions and international transfer emissions, the Chinese premier said.

"Today, 2.4 billion people in the world still rely on coal, charcoal and stalks as main fuels, and 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity," so any action on climate change must be taken within the framework of sustainable development and should by no means compromise the efforts of developing countries to get rid of poverty and backwardness, he said.

Wen urged developed countries to take the lead in making deep quantified emission cuts and provide financial and technological support to developing countries as "this is an unshirkable moral responsibility as well as a legal obligation that they must fulfill."

Developing countries should, with the financial and technological support of developed countries, do what they can to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change in light of their national conditions, Wen said.

The U.N. conference, which opened on Dec. 7, is to end later in the day. It aims to map out a comprehensive international arrangement for the fight against climate change over the period 2012-2020.

Source: Xinhua
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