Discord blocks climate deal

They say tension is rising as the US, which never ratified the Kyoto agreement, presses hard to change the nature of commitments made by developed and developing countries, with the Cancun climate summit only a month away.

China’s chief climate negotiator, Su Wei, said attempts to thoroughly revamp the Kyoto Protocol have blocked any possible progress in the talks.

"During the past six days, some developed countries have kept silent on their mitigation plans after 2012, when the first commitment period of Kyoto Protocol expires," Su said.

The US has targeted China and other major developing countries for not accepting the same monitoring and verifying process as developed countries, although the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change clearly mandates that they are not subject to the same verification.

Many of the richer nations want to "jump ship" from Kyoto to a new protocol, said Martin Khor, the executive director of South Center, expressing his strong disappointment at the deadlock.

"They want the major developing countries to accept the same obligations on emission reductions, and this is an obvious deviation from the Bali Road Map," said Su, adding that such action is a retreat from previous consensus reached by all parties.

This is a tactful indirect way to actually abolish the existing protocol while avoiding blame, said Su.

"Rather than honoring their existing legal commitments, rich nations are immorally trying to shift the burden to developing countries and extract further concessions from them," said Meena Raman from Friends of the Earth.

The US wants to blame China for the failure of talks even though Washington made no substantial contributions to the negotiation progress, said Yang Ailun, a climate campaigner from Greenpeace.

"The US has no problem with China’s mitigation efforts to be performed with a carbon-intensity target, but they want this pledge to be the same as theirs – to accept strict transparency evaluations.

"But that undermines the principle of common, but differentiated responsibilities," said Yang.

Kyoto Protocol chairman warns of uncertainty at climate talks

UNFCCC official addresses the last plenary session during the UN Climate Change Conference in Tianjin, north China, Oct. 9, 2010. The six-day conference, which wound up on Saturday in Tianjin, is the final meeting before the United Nations Climate Summit to be held in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of this year. (Xinhua/Yue Yuewei)

The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the international accord to cut greenhouse gas emission, is facing uncertainty as the fourth round of climate talks draw to a close in Tianjin, China, Saturday.

"As of today, we are not yet close to making a final decision on the second commitment period. There is still some work to be done on that," said John Ashe, chairman of the Kyoto Protocol negotiating group in an exclusive interview with Xinhua Friday.

The Kyoto Protocol, which initially came into force in 2005, legally obliges more than 40 developed countries and European Union to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.

It stipulates that developed countries should cut their emissions by 5.2 percent on average from 1990 levels in the first commitment period from 2008 to 2012.

The goal was expected to be achieved before the deadline on Dec. 31, 2012, said Ashe.

However, the second commitment had not yet made any progress.

"The complex process we’re involved in, it is never smooth, it is never easy. But it has largely been uneventful, that is also a good sign," he said.

Although most developed countries had made pledges, negotiations on the second commitment period were slow and hard.

Different groups of countries faced "fundamental" disputes, because they all had their own worries on the problems of green-gas emissions reduction, capital and techniques.

Some developed countries even hoped to abolish or amend the Protocol, saying developing countries should share the same responsibilities.

Only Norway had made a clear commitment to a 30-percent cut in greenhouse-gas emissions.

"We are not sure that there will be a second commitment period, although no one has come out to say that there ought not to be or there will definitely not be a second commitment period," said Ashe.

"We are in a sort of grey area."

The talks in Tianjin from Oct. 4 to 9 are the last preparatory session before the Cancun summit, which is to be held in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of this year. Three other preparatory talks were held in Bonn, Germany. 
Don’t use Beijing for a scapegoat in climate change

Chinese NGOs and academics urged the United States to immediately beef up its domestic efforts in tackling climate change, and stop using China as its excuse for inaction on the sidelines of the UN climate meeting in Tianjin.

The US "not only failed in passing a crucial climate legislation on time meanwhile, it has been seeking to divert attention away from its own failures by pointing fingers on China," said Dale Wen, a scholar at the International Forum on Globalization, who led a report comparing the two country’s policies and actions on tackling climate change.

The researchers find that, as a developing country, China’s serious domestic mitigation efforts have already exceeded that of the US side, though its per-capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions remains only one-fourth of that in US.

When looking at two countries’ pledges on cutting GHG emissions, the US also lags behind in terms of the absolute emission reduction amount, said the report, citing calculation by the Secretariat of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

"China’s 40 to 45 percent carbon intensity reduction target by 2020 translates to 2.5 giga tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) avoided in the atmosphere – three times compared to that from the US pledges," says the report.

Last year, US President Barack Obama promised to reduce his country’s carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, which equals to 0.8 giga tons of CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, it is also "ironic" for the US to attack China on its policies to switch to a low carbon economy, such as criticizing subsidies on renewable energy programs and setting up trade barriers against China, according to experts.

"Finger-pointing and using the trade system will risk a race to the bottom and threaten the efforts to address the complicated global issue," said Chee Yoke Ling, director of programs at Third World Network.

The open letter, signed by 12 Chinese scholars and six Chinese NGOs, and with support from 16 international organizations, was delivered to Jonathan Pershing, head of the US delegation, on Tuesday.

China expected to achieve green goal on schedule

China is expected to achieve its target of a 20-percent cut in energy use per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) in the five years to 2010 as planned, Li Yizhong, Minister of Industry and Information Technology, said Friday.

With efforts in the fourth quarter, the energy efficiency goal for the 11th Five-Year (2006-2010) period would be met, Li told Xinhua.

Li also forecast energy consumption per unit of industrial value-added output would decline 6 percent this year from a year ago.

The year-on-year reductions for the previous four years were 1.98 percent in 2006, 5.46 percent in 2007, 8.43 percent in 2008 and 6.62 percent last year, he said.

China would make the industrial sector a key area for pushing through energy efficiency measures and emission cuts, Li said.

In 2009, the industrial sector consumed 71.3 percent of China’s total energy, and was responsible for 84.3 percent of the country’ s sulfur dioxide emissions and 34.4 percent of chemical oxygen emissions, he said.

Currently, China was facing a tough challenge in restructuring its industrial sector as it struggled to be rid of production overcapacity and highly energy-intensive businesses, said Li.

Apart from the iron and steel and concrete manufacturing, other industries suffering from overcapacity included the sectors of wind power electricity generation and the solar photovoltaic industry, Li told Xinhua.

The extremely high proportion of energy-intensive businesses in the industrial sector also gave rise to heavy energy and environmental pressures, Li said.

"Although half of China’s backward production capacity will be eliminated during the five years from 2006 to 2010, there is still a long way to go before our conventional industries can be upgraded," he said.

The authorities would continue to raise energy efficiency by promoting indigenous innovations, improving the structure of investments and by enforcing strict market access rules to curb high energy-guzzling businesses, Li said.

Official statistics showed China’s consumption of energy relative to economic output has fallen by 15.6 percent from 2005 to 2009.

However, energy use per unit of GDP rose 3.2 percent year-on-year during the first quarter this year. Energy consumption per unit of industrial value-added output was up 0.38 percent from one year ago during the first three months.

The first half of this year saw a 0.09-percent increase year-on-year in energy use per unit of GDP.

The government has introduced a series of measures to ensure the target on energy efficiency is met, including eliminating out-dated industrial capacity and restricting new projects for capacity expansion in energy intensive and polluting industries.

During the four years to 2009, small thermal power plants with a total capacity of 60 million kilowatts were shut down. For the first seven months this year, small thermal plants with another 10 million kW of capacity were eliminated.

Authorities also phased out inefficient production capacity of 87.12 million tons of steel, 60.38 million tons of iron and 214 million tons of cement in the past four years.

This year, the government was aiming to save energy of another 16 million tons of standard coal by shutting down small thermal power plants with a total capacity of 10 million kw and eliminating inefficient production capacity of 25 million tons of steel, 6 million tonnes of iron and 50 million tons of cement.

China’s State-owned wind energy companies are internationally competitive and they have a clear ambition to expand globally. A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd, based in Liaoning province, is entering the US wind energy market by supplying wind turbines to a joint venture that has plans to build a $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas.

China would exhaust all effective means possible to meet the target of improving energy efficiency, Zhang Xiaoqiang, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at the Summer Davos in September.