Climate experts meet in China
UN climate chief urges nations to find common ground on curbing greenhouse gases in a bid to pave way for a new treaty.
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2010 13:25 GMT
Environmentalists say China has invested heavily in green energies to meet domestic efficiency targets [EPA] 

China is hosting its first UN climate conference, but there are doubts over whether the event will see the major breakthroughs that environmentalists are seeking.

Some 3,000 delegates converged in the northern port city of Tianjin on Monday for the latest round of protracted negotiations aimed at securing a post-2012 treaty to combat global warming.

The talks are aimed at building momentum and finding areas of agreement ahead of the annual summit of the 194-member UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun, Mexico, starting on November 29.

The final objective is a treaty aimed at curbing the greenhouse gases that scientists say lead to global warming and cause climate change.

Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief, urged countries at the summit to find common ground so that a "tangible outcome" could be made in December.

"As governments, you can continue to stand still or move forward. Now is the time to make that choice,'' she said.

"Tianjin... is where governments will need to cut down the number of options they have on the table, identify what is achievable... and muster political compromises that will deliver what needs to be done in Cancun."

Incremental progress

But even the most optimistic forecasts for the six days of talks foresee only incremental progress amid the continuing fallout from last year's failure in Copenhagen by world leaders to forge a legally binding, comprehensive deal.

"The devil is in the details, in terms of the progress that will have to be made here," Melissa Chan, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said from Tianjin.

"Part of the problem is the length of the text. It's unwieldly, and it's unmanageable," Chan added. "There is a sense of urgency here though."

Many are hoping the treaty will be sealed in South Africa next year, in time to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires at the end of 2012.

"[China is] probably trying to show it is... taking the lead in negotiations and [does not want to be] seen as obstructionist"

Barbara Finamore, Natural Resources Defence Council China

"Our expectations are not very high, in the sense that we have not witnessed a willingness from governments to really move the negotiations forward," Wendel Trio, the climate policy director for Greenpeace International, told the AFP news agency.

One of the sensitive issues is how much money developing countries will receive to help deal with climate change.

In Copenhagen, developed nations pledged to give poor countries $30bn in initial annual funding, rising to a total of $100bn annually by 2020.

Chinese example

China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and blamed by many developing nations for derailing last year's Copenhagen talks, hopes to use the event running from October 4-9 to showcase its green credentials.

"We think this is a significant step showing that China wants to be an active participant and contributor to the negotiations," Barbara Finamore, the programme director of Natural Resources Defence Council China, said.

"It's probably trying to show it is ... taking the lead in negotiations and [does not want to be] seen as obstructionist."

Nevertheless, China is expected to remain firm in Tianjin on many of the key disputes with developed nations that have led to the current gridlock.

Last year, China consumed more than three billion tons of coal, more than triple what is used by the second-ranked United States, a Greenpeace report published in September said. 

China, with 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities in the world, depends on coal-fired power for 70 per cent of its energy.

China's energy consumption has more than doubled in less than a decade, driven by its burgeoning population and economic growth that hit 11.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2010.

But, per capita, the US still consumes five times more energy than China, according to Paris-based International Energy Agency.

In 2009, China surpassed the United States and became the world's largest market for wind turbines, hoping to replace its polluting coal resources that still sustain much of its economy.

Last year, China pledged it would cut its carbon intensity - emissions per unit of GDP - by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020 from the 2005 level.

Chistiana Figueres, the UN climate chief, said: "There is no doubt that countries are embarking on a 'green race', and that China is actually well placed to win [it] for the benefit of its own people."

Regardless, expectations for the Tianjin and subsequent Cancun climate change talks have been downsized, as it has become obvious that countries remain deadlocked on the same issues that scuttled last year's conference.

Al Jazeera and Agencies
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