China air pollution

Beijing 'flexible' in global climate talks amid smog concerns at home

Top envoy to UN negotiations on global emissions pact stresses compromise amid domestic concern about worsening air pollution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 10:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 9:39am

Beijing intends to be "flexible" in UN global climate talks, the country's top negotiator said yesterday, while adding that getting rich nations to keep pledges to fund mitigation steps by poorer countries would be key to a deal.

Representatives of more than 190 nations will gather in Warsaw on Monday to push towards a new global deal to cut climate-warming greenhouse gases. The deal would take effect by 2020.

Last month, the United States' chief climate change envoy, Todd Stern, urged a more flexible approach over the new pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, saying nations should be allowed to set individual timetables and commitments.

Beijing was just as willing to compromise, said the country's chief negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, who is also vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

"As long as it is fair, and accords with the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibilities', as long as it has the agreement of all parties, and as long as it is in line with agreements already reached, we have a very flexible approach," Xie told reporters, adding that he had seen Stern's remarks.

China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, blamed by scientists for causing dangerous climate change.

Xie said funding was critical to solving the disputes, with richer countries still not having released funds promised in 2009 to help poorer nations adapt to climate change and to cut emissions. The measures included "fast-start" funds of US$30 billion by 2015 and an annual fund of US$100 billion by 2020.

Developing nations would only be obliged to meet climate change pledges once funding from richer nations was in place, the NDRC said in a document issued ahead of Xie's remarks.

"Although the developed countries have not lived up to their commitments, developing countries have taken active measures to combat climate change, especially China," Xie said.

Xie confirmed that three regions - Beijing, Guangdong and Shanghai - would launch emissions-trading markets before the end of the year, adding to a carbon-trading scheme introduced in Shenzhen in June. The central government aims to use emissions trading to reach a target of cutting emissions per unit of GDP to 40-45 per cent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

The schemes would force electricity generators and manufacturers to cap emissions at levels set by the local government or buy permits from companies limiting their carbon output.

Xie also said that air pollution in his own country - the world's biggest carbon emitter - was harming its citizens.

Xie attributed the country's air problems to its "obsolete development model", its "unreasonable industrial and energy structure" and discharge of pollutants by some companies "in a very extensive way".

Reuters, Agence-France Presse

A view of Beijing's smog from atop the Forbidden City