China and the US still far apart on climate responsibilities

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 4:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 6:48pm

China and the United States laid bare their core differences in drafting a new global treaty on combating climate change yesterday as they renewed pledges to fight global warming by signing partnership pacts on cutting emissions.

China's chief climate official, Xie Zhenhua and his US counterpart Todd Stern spelled out the disagreements between the world's top two carbon emitters on how to contribute to emissions reductions after 2020.

The pair were briefing journalists separately in Beijing on the sidelines of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Xie, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said responsibilities should differ from rich to poor countries, while Stern, the US special climate envoy, said Washington favoured each country deciding what it was capable of doing.

"We have different historical responsibilities. We are in different development stages, and we have different capacities," Xie said.

Stern said the US was not against the idea of responsibilities being based on each country's capabilities, but that the "bifurcated two categories" of developing and developed nations set in 1992 was unacceptable.

"I'm seeing Xie many times every year, and we understand each other's position very well … It's one of those conversations that just goes on and on, doesn't stop," Stern said.

The issue has become one of the major stumbling blocks to negotiating a new global climate treaty involving more than 190 nations next year in Paris.

Despite their differences, China and the US signed eight new pacts on tackling climate change on Tuesday including agreements on projects demonstrating clean coal technologies such as gasification, and recovering oil from captured carbon.

Both countries have recently taken steps at home to tackle climate change.

Last month the US for the first time announced plans to rein in carbon emissions from its power sector, a move some analysts said could create a positive atmosphere in the run-up to the international climate talks.

A senior climate adviser to the Chinese government said Beijing was considering setting an absolute cap on carbon emissions between 2016 and 2020.