Climate change

China 'open to' binding carbon cuts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am

China's climate chief says the country is 'open to negotiations' on its acceptance of a legally binding target on carbon emission cuts - a move analysts said provided impetus for the long-deadlocked global climate talks.

Despite mounting calls from developed countries and poor developing nations, China, the world's top carbon emitter, had previously rejected binding emission caps for years, fearing such limits would hurt its spectacular economic rise.

The latest remarks yesterday by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, came on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa. The remarks might signal a major policy change based on Beijing's new understanding of its global responsibility in tackling climate change, and its awareness of international anxiety over the rapid growth of carbon emissions, climate observers said.

Xie's statement, widely seen as a major concession, looks set to be a key talking point in the second week of the Durban talks next week, as heads of state and ministers from nearly 200 nations make their final push to rescue the UN's foundering climate regime.

'China agrees to discuss through negotiations' binding post-2020 carbon-reducing targets, Xie told reporters when pressed about rampant speculation regarding China's acceptance of such targets, according to the China News Service.

But regarding key questions about when China could accept the target, and about what the country plans to do beyond 2020, Xie returned to his stance of last month: that relevant negotiations must wait for the completion of the next international review of global efforts dealing with climate change. That review is due in 2015.

China's preconditions for further talks, according to Xie, include whether developed nations fulfil their commitments made under the Kyoto Protocol, such as meeting binding carbon-cut targets and providing climate-geared financial and technology aid to poor nations.

Xie also stressed that the Durban talks should remain focused on resolving differences on the extension of the Kyoto pact, the first commitment period of which expires next year, and on developed nations extending their current commitments on emission-reduction targets through 2020.

Li Yan, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace China, said Xie's remarks showed Beijing's growing confidence in mapping out China's future development while tackling climate change.

'As some government-linked experts have said, China's acceptance of a quantified target to cap greenhouse-gas emissions after 2020 largely depends on the outcome of the next two five-year plans,' she said.

'But the success of the Durban talks will be decided by whether other major players can make similar constructive contributions.'