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Where China leads, we will follow: Australian Climate Minister


19:04, March 28, 2013

SYDNEY, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Australia's climate change minister Greg Combet has described China's climate change action as a model for other nations to follow and condemned western media for its failure to highlight China's leadership in positive climate action, at a key Ministerial Dialogue in Sydney.

In a keynote speech delivered to experts from both countries at the Australia China Climate Change Forum at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Combet said China is moving towards a low- carbon path at an 'astonishing' pace.

"In 2005, China had next to no renewable industry. It now leads the world in wind, solar and hydro power. China is the world leader when it comes to renewable energy investment.

"And two weeks ago, for the first time ever, China made public its detailed plan to implement a nation-wide emissions trading scheme."

The Australia-China Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Change, opened by UNSW President and Vice Chancellor Fred Hilmer, saw experts gather in concert with Combet, the Australian Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation, and H.E. Xie Zhenhua, the Vice Chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Combet pulled no punches when he assessed China's role in the renewable energy challenge and western media's failure to recognize the battle now being waged at all levels of Chinese society.

"It's disappointing how often you see stories in the media which focus on China's emissions, yet ignore the enormous effort the country is making to tackle climate change."

A world leader in renewables investment, China plans to increase its renewable energy power capacity by 167GW by 2015, an overall increase of 68 per cent from 2010.

Estimates place the commitment at almost 2 trillion RMB.

And the incoming government has a headline target of increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in the country's energy mix from 8 percent in 2010, to 11.4 percent in 2015 leading to 15 percent in 2020.

Australia is facing its own uphill battle to enshrine a carbon price policy roundly criticized by large sections of the business community and an opposition coalition.

Combet said Chinese support would be decisive as Australia confronts the truth of its climate responsibilities.

Australia, as one of the largest per capita carbon emitters among the developed nations, Combet told an audience including Professor Steve Sherwood, Director, UNSW Climate Change Research Centre and Professor Li Junfeng, Director-General, National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC) that China and Australia shared an ambitious, yet realistic approach to the world's pre-eminent environmental challenge.

"Without China, we cannot solve climate change." He said. " This plan is serious, comprehensive and ambitious but also realistic about the challenges ahead.

"It covers every issue, from setting caps and measuring emissions, to setting up the legal and financial framework that will underpin the scheme."

According to NDRC Vice Chairman Xie, once up and running, based on emissions, China's ETS has the potential to be the largest in the world potentially bigger than the entire European Union ETS, which covers 31 countries and over 500 million people.

China's pilot schemes alone are expected to represent the second largest emissions trading market in the world larger than those in California, Australia and New Zealand combined.

Australia's carbon price of $23 Australian dollars per ton of emissions has been lambasted domestically as impractically high, however the Federal Government led by Prime Minister Julia Gillar maintains the policy will convert to a floating price linked to Europe's emissions trading scheme in 2015.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has pledged scrap the carbon price if the Coalition wins office, replacing the policy with a " direct action" plan to pay polluters for reducing their emissions.

The Opposition Coalition climate spokesman Greg Hunt has repeatedly said Coalition supports a 20 per cent renewable energy target and will scrap the Labor carbon price.

China plans to launch pilot carbon markets in five cities and two major provinces, with the first to start in Beijing next month. Mr Combet said the schemes would cover a population 10 times greater than Australia's.

The Chinese pilot scheme will apply to companies emitting at least 10,000 tons of carbon annually, less than Australia's threshold of 25,000 tons.

Rather than cap emissions, China aims to cut the energy- intensity of its economic output by between 40-45 per cent by 2020.

Combet said the Sino-Australian partnership would benefit the future of both countries.

"China and Australia are working together to ensure that future generations enjoy continual improvement in their economic, social and health prospects."

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