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Bid to Reduce Emissions Stepped Up

The end of last week's conference to try to extend the Kyoto Protocol climate pact marked another step by the world towards curbing global warming.


Countries attending the Montreal meeting reached the consensus that they would continue their efforts to curb global warming after 2012, although no concrete measures on how they would do it were set.


The United States came under fresh criticism at the conference for its previous decision to refuse to sign the pact,


The United States, the world's biggest polluter, is involved in the UN framework convention on climate change, which gave rise to the protocol.


But the Bush administration rejected the Kyoto pact itself, saying that the emission cuts would harm the economy.


Meanwhile, China takes an active part in seeking cooperation with other countries for making contributions to limiting pollution.


As a non-Annex 1 country under the Kyoto Protocol, China is exempt from Kyoto restrictions on greenhouse gases emissions by 2012.


Annex 1 countries are made up of developed countries that are required by the protocal to reduce greenhouse gases emissions.


In July, China joined the Asia-Pacific partnership on clean development and climate, together with the United States, India, South Korea, Australia and Japan. While it does not replace the Kyoto Protocol, the partnership instead focuses on regional efforts to cut greenhouse gases emissions.


In September, China and the European Union (EU) signed a joint declaration on climate change, saying the two parties will strengthen cooperation and dialogue on climate change, including clean energy, and promote sustainable development.


"Although the Asia-Pacific partnership on clean development and climate is a good step on the long road to fighting global warming, it provides no concrete and effective measures on cutting greenhouse emissions as yet," said Zhang Jianyu, a visiting scholar to Tsinghua University.


Chinese experts believe the Kyoto rulebook will continue to play an indispensable role beyond 2012 when the pact comes to a close.


Luo Yong, deputy director with the National Climate Centre, said: "The mainstream society of the world community is pushing forward the sustainable implementation of Kyoto Protocol, despite a lot of doubting voices," he said.


But, the climate expert pointed out that even if all the targets of the Kyoto Protocol are met, the global warming trend could not be halted immediately.


"Carbon dioxide will go on increasing in the atmosphere. So will the world's average temperature. It is because all these greenhouse gases have a century-long life cycle. They will remain a stable state in the air for centuries," Luo explained.


He said the world should attach more weight to adapting to the inevitable climate changes.


"Coastal regions, for example, should begin some constructions against the rising sea level and the agricultural layout should be reconsidered in some places," he said.


Scientists said there is more carbon dioxide today in the atmosphere than at any point during the last 830,000 years.


A latest study, by the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica, found levels of carbon dioxide have climbed from 280 ppmv (parts per million by volume) two centuries ago to 380 ppmv today. In return, the Earth's average temperature has increased about 0.6 C since 1840.


"The rise of carbon dioxide is considerably steep, by 1 ppmv per year in the last 50 years and by 1.8 ppmv annually in the recent decade," Luo said. "It is not like, as some sceptics claim, that the rise in greenhouse gases is only a natural fluctuation."


China emitted 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide and more than 34 million tons of methane in 1994. The decade-old figure, however, is the latest official one about China's emission of greenhouse gases.


Although the per capita greenhouse gases emission in China is 2.6 tons, against 19 tons of the United States, China should begin to prepare for possible limits after the year of 2012.


"It does not mean we can be exempted after 2012, so we should start preparations now," said Zhang De'er, a senior climate expert with the National Climate Centre.


China is doing it. The country's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) outlines a goal of 20 percent reduction in its energy cost per unit of gross domestic product by 2010.


And the past two years have witnessed the government's stronger promotion of clean development mechanism (CDM), an effective carbon trading mechanism proposed in the protocol.


Japan's Kyodo Agency recently reported that China, together with companies in the developed countries, had begun 30 projects to jointly reduce emission, by the end of last month.


It is estimated that the total reduction of carbon dioxide will reach 39 million tons this year, the agency said. If the effort continues at this speed, China is expected to cut 1 percent off total emissions annually, the agency added.


Lu Xuedu, a senior official with the Ministry of Science and Technology, said the United Nations CDM Executive Board has already approved 25 projects from China.


"In the next year, we will submit between 200 and 300 CDM projects for approval," said Lu, deputy director with the Office of Global Environmental Affairs.


He said the next two to three years would see a great leap in CDM collaboration between China and developed countries.


"Current projects, including those to be approved, are estimated to reduce 250 million tons of CERs (certificated emission reduction)," said Lu, who is also vice-chairman of the CDM Executive Board of Kyoto Protocol.


"Italy is now our most dynamic partner, which has proposed 100 joint CDM projects with an annual reduction of more than 10 million tons," Lu said.


The World Bank, France, Canada, Japan and Asian Development Bank also have such projects with China. China Environment News reported last Wednesday that the country would see an annual trading of more than 200 million tons of carbon in the next five years.


"It is expected that the CDM projects will bring an increase of about 2 billion yuan (US$250 million) in foreign investment this year," it said.


And the figure will almost double in 2010, it added.


Jiang Dong, deputy director with Hebei CDM Project Office, said the province is considering about 10 more CDM projects in biofuel, coal-bed gas and landfill devices.


He revealed that the province may be able to contribute to about 2 million tons of reduction each year under current and new projects.


(China Daily December 13, 2005)

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