China should play a lead role in "saving our planet" and if prompt actions are not taken to adapt to climate change, the progress of human development in developing countries could "stall or even reverse", according to a UN Human Development Report released Wednesday.
Entitled "Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world", the report said that although China is to become the world's largest source of CO2 emissions over the next decade, "a person from the United States still emits on average five times more carbon than a person in China."
Developing countries such as China, which are "rapidly growing in emissions", should play a lead role in finding common solutions in the effort to save the planet, said Khalid Malik, United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in China, at Wednesday's press conference on the launch of the global report in China.
"International technology transfer is crucial to helping reduce carbon emissions in developing countries which are increasingly vulnerable to global climate change," the report said.
"Climate change is now a common concern for all of humanity and should be dealt with through concerted global action," it said.
The report argues that compared to developed countries, which take up 13 percent of world's population and produce over half of CO2 emissions, China has a small per capita carbon footprint by international standards.
By 2015, per capita emissions from China are projected at 5.2 tons, which is about one fourth of the 19.3 tons in the United States and a third of the average in developed countries as a whole, the report showed.
"If every person in the developing world had the same carbon footprint as the average person in Canada or the United States, we would need nine planets to absorb all the pollution. We however have only one planet," said Malik.
The report argued that the world's richest countries have a "historic responsibility" to take the lead in balancing the carbon budget by cutting emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050.
Developed countries should adopt a new mechanism to "transfer clean energy technology", such as "clean coal" to developing countries, allowing them to improve energy efficiency and promote the use of renewable energy, it said.
Emission reduction and energy saving is prominently shown in China's 11th Five-year Plan, such as the use of clean coal technology to enhance energy efficiency, and an early transition to carbon capture and storage, the shutdown of inefficient power plants and industrial enterprises, and promoting renewable energy.
The Renewable Energy Law, promulgated in 2005, says about 17 percent of energy in China will be produced from renewable sources by 2020, more than twice today's level.
The report also warned that rapid economic growth has greatly slowed a steep decline in poverty.
"The poor, who have the lightest carbon footprint and bear no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, are the most vulnerable and will be affected the most by global warming," said Malik.
China's average temperatures by 2020 are projected to be 1.1 to 2 degrees centigrade higher than the 1961-1990 level, it said.
"If current emission patterns continue, two thirds of China's glaciers, including Tianshan mountains in northwest Xinjiang, are likely to disappear by 2060, with the remaining ones gone before the end of the century," it said.
A similar situation is occurring in South and East Asia where changes in rainfall, temperatures and the access to water, would cause great losses in food production, thwarting efforts of poverty reduction.
Statistics show half of China's 128 million rural poor and 40 percent of the country's farmland might be affected by climate change. Extreme weather such as droughts in northeastern China and Yangtze River floods have been common over the past few years.
"Failure to act on climate change will have grave consequences for human development in poor areas of the world, and it will undermine efforts to tackle poverty," Malik added.
"Prevention is better than cure," it said, adding every one dollar invested in monitoring natural disasters in developing countries could prevent losses up to seven dollars.
Statistics show the investment of 3 billion U.S. dollars for five decades before 2000 by the Chinese government for flood defense, is estimated to have averted losses worth about 12 billion U.S. dollars.
The annual report, compiled by a collective of international experts commissioned by the UNDP, has been published since 1990. It deals with topics concerning the "severe challenges faced by mankind".
The 2007/2008 report, based on the latest findings from the study of climate change, lays a foundation for a key meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to negotiate a successor to the current Kyoto Protocol which aims to achieve a substantial emission reduction by 2012.
(Xinhua News Agency November 29, 2007)