China seeks delay over global climate treaty
Beijing wants industrialised countries to commit to cuts in greenhouse gas emissions before agreeing to an extension of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol
Beijing's top climate negotiator said yesterday that international discussions for a new global climate treaty starting from 2020 should not begin until next year, after the securing of renewed pledges by developed nations at climate talks starting next week to reduce their greenhouse gas emission from 2013.
But Xie Zhenhua also said that countries are still divided on which of the two focal points should be prioritised, resulting in a cloud of uncertainty over the United Nations talks due to begin on Monday in Qatar, which will last until December 7.
China, the world's top carbon dioxide emitter, wants to first secure a second commitment period of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that would go into effect from January 1 and which China hopes will include strong commitments from industrialised countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, according to Xie, who is deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission.
"Building on such progress, countries can move forwards to seek a consensus for the post-2020 scheme, with formal negotiations to be launched next year," Xie said.
Analysts said China's preference to delay negotiations is likely to be met with strong opposition from countries such as the United States, which has been trying to blur the divide between developed and developing countries in climate negotiations.
The Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which expires at the end of this year, is the only existing global treaty that binds most industrialised nations on their emissions of greenhouse gases, while sparing China, India and other large, emerging economies, which have caught up quickly in carbon emissions.
Li Yan, a Greenpeace China climate campaigner, said that an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, with fewer countries ready to renew their emission-reduction pledges, would have only limited effectiveness in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. But Li said the accord remains politically significant after serving as the foundation for climate talks for nearly two decades.
"It is understandable that China and other developing nations do not want to see the new treaty move too fast before the sorting out of other problems - rich countries' commitments on emission reduction, financing and technical aide," Li said.
Delegates at UN talks in South Africa last year agreed that nations would hammer out a new deal by 2015 to fight climate change after 2020.
Li said that Beijing was prepared to take on some emission-reduction obligations after 2020, but it was not yet ready to formally commit to such obligations.
Xie also voiced strong opposition to the European Union's carbon tax scheme for airlines, calling it a violation of international laws. But he said China will take part in negotiations on emission cuts for the aviation industry.