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China Issues National Plan to Address Climate Change
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China issued a national plan on Monday to address climate change and show its determination to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in an all round way.


Under the National Climate Change Program, the first by a developing country, China pledges to restructure its economy, promoting clean technologies and improving energy efficiency.


The plan is proof of China's determination to reduce GHG emissions, said Ma Kai, minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission.


But the plan does not include any quantified targets for carbon dioxide emission.


"The absence of any quantified targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions does not mean China isn't serious about reducing GHG emissions," the top economic planner told a press conference in Beijing two days ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Germany for a G8 meeting at which global warming will top the agenda.


China has come under increasing pressure from industrialized economies to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.


With the new plan, the nation has opted not to hide behind the fact that the Kyoto Protocol does not obligate developing nations to reduce GHG emissions.


According to the calculations by Xinhua, if all the objectives in the program were achieved -- on hydro and nuclear power generation, upgrading of thermal power generation, facilitation of coal-bed-gas development, the use of renewable energy resources such as wind power, solar power and terrestrial heat, forestation and energy-saving -- the world's most populous country would emit 1.5 billion tons less carbon dioxide and equivalent by 2010 while still continuing to grow rapidly.


Citing figures from the International Energy Agency, Ma rebutted the argument that China is a "menace to the global environment".


"I don't see how China can be labeled a menace. Compared to the industrialized countries, until recently China had low greenhouse gas emissions and its emissions are still relatively low in per capita terms. Rises in gross domestic product in China produce smaller hikes in carbon dioxide discharges than in other countries. This kind of talk is grossly exaggerated and unfair," Ma said.


China prefers to calculate GHG emissions in per capita terms pointing out that, in 2004, its per capita carbon dioxide emissions were 3.65 tons, compared to a world average of 4.20 tons and an average of 10.95 tons for the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.


More pertinently, China points out that a one-percent rise in GDP leads to an average 0.6 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, but the Chinese figure is only 0.38 percent.


"Even if China overtook the United States one day in total carbon dioxide discharges, given that the former's population is five times as much as the latter, China's per capita greenhouse gas emission would remain low compared with the United States," Ma said.


The minister advocated a more objective methodology to evaluate carbon dioxide emissions, pointing out that globalization had shifted a significant amount of production to developing countries, forcing up their energy consumption.


Ma urged the international community to respect the developing countries right to develop, saying that China was ready to cooperate closely with other nations to combat climate change.


The 62-page action plan details the policies and measures China will take to mitigate and adapt itself to climate change. "By mitigation, we mean curbing carbon dioxide emissions, emitting as little as possible. By adaptation, we mean minimizing the negative impact of greenhouse gases by improving our ability to forecast and prevent disasters," Ma said.


The plan says that regional cooperation on climate change should function as "a helpful complement" to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol rather than replacing or weakening them.


The China Meteorological Administration announced Friday that this year's Spring was the country's 11th warm Spring since 1997, with the temperature averaging 10.6 degrees Celsius from March to May, 1.2 degrees higher than normal years and the second highest since 1951.


The National Climate Change Program notes that the most significant temperature increases have occurred in winter with 20 consecutive warm winters from 1986 to 2005.


The sea level has risen by 2.5 mm annually along China's coasts over the last 50 years, slightly faster than the global average. But the nation's mountain glaciers are retreating much more rapidly.


The program warns that the risk of desertification will intensify.


"Climate change is a challenge China must cope with to realize sustainable development... Implementing a climate change containment policy may cost a fortune, but the cost will be even higher if we delay. Early action is imperative," Ma said.


(Xinhua News Agency June 5, 2007)

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