GLOBAL warming had to take a back seat to economic concerns until about three years ago, when international pressure forced China to address the issue. Zhu Bin, professor at the Institute of Policy and Management in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said China was only one of many countries to have put economics first for many years. Professor Zhu was in Hong Kong to attend the ninth International Conference on Global Warming. He said Beijing's hand had been forced by the realisation that for it to secure international loans, it had to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Plans were drawn up for 10 new nuclear power plants within 15 years to reduce the emission of gases that contribute to global warming. About 78 per cent of energy is generated by coal, making China the biggest coal consumer and one of the top-three emitters of carbon dioxide. 'To face the dilemma that greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide emissions have to be reduced while ensuring energy supply for economic growth, the energy consumption system in China as a developing country has to be transferred to a new system,' Professor Zhu told the conference. 'The Chinese Government is planning to accelerate the development of nuclear power in well-developed southeastern coastal areas, which have relatively favourable economic and technological conditions but are lacking energy resources,' he said. Professor Zhu said he expected the development of oilfields offshore and in the Xinjiang autonomous region would help lift the nation's petroleum industry. Raising the proportion of petroleum and natural gas used as energy sources and reducing coal burned would lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Professor Zhu said the new leadership in Beijing, and its emphasis on science and education, offered exciting hope for the environment. He said officials were eager to use scientific expertise when drawing up national policies, and was optimistic Beijing would make a serious effort to tackle global warming.