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Coping with climate change:a common task
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"A large amount of money is to be spent in a short period," says Li Yan, "but in the long run, we have to find a healthy and sustainable development mode for the progress of the Chinese economy. High costs still bind the hands and feet of a developing country like China in coping with climate change. This is why the Chinese government has made repeated efforts on various occasions to call on developed countries for the elimination of the high threshold for technology transfer and for more economic support.

"In spite of these hindrances," says Li Yan, "China is currently leading the U.S. in environmental measures by setting higher requirements for vehicle exhaust emissions and the energy efficiency of thermal power generation. However, most of the measures that have been adopted for energy saving are governmental, and more administrative than economic and market-regulated." Xie Zhenhua, vice minister of China's Development and Reform Commission, revealed that the government was planning to adjust the price structure of energy resources with the aim of economizing resources and enforcing environmental protection.

More and more non-governmental efforts have also been seen. Since its founding in 2007, China's Green Carbon Fund (CGCF) has accepted donations from many individuals and groups. One of their campaigns was conducted simultaneously in Beijing and Inner Mongolia, aiming to assist the recovery of local forest ecosystems, thereby increasing forests' ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide.

To many environmentalists, the Beijing Olympics provided a wonderful opportunity for public participation. The limiting of motor vehicle usage during the Olympic Games won support from Beijingers, and significantly reduced exhaust emissions. As a result, Beijing's air quality improved noticeably. After the Games, more cities joined Beijing in limiting the use of motor vehicles through forcing each car off the road one day a week, through restrictions based on the last digit of license plates.

The Strength of Cooperation

Climate change, and how to cope with it in a coordinated manner, has become a hot topic of discussion between governments. Everybody knows global collaboration is required to tackle the problem.

Sixteen years ago, Lin Erda attended the U.N talks for coping with climate change. "The biggest issue during the negotiation," he says, "was who should take the lead. Everyone attending the meeting was convinced that reducing emissions of greenhouse gases was the most effective approach, but they were divided about who should do it first and to what extend emissions should be reduced. These same problems are still under discussion."

So far, the majority of emissions -- about 80 percent -- come from developed countries. However, according to an IPCC report, by 2030 this situation will change, and about 70 percent of new emissions will come from developing countries such as India, China and Mexico.

"Because of the fast growth of our economy," Lin Erda continues, "our percentage of carbon dioxide emissions during the past few years is fairly high, and reducing emissions is our responsibility. Of all the world's nations, China is close to the highest emitter. However, because of its large population of 1.3 billion people, per capita emissions are very low. Low as ours are, we still need to reduce emission and raise energy efficiency. Otherwise, our economic growth will be affected."

"If everyone in the developing countries leaves as big a carbon footprint as the average American or Canadian," remarked Mr. Khalid Malik, resident representative of the U.N Development Program in China, "we'd need nine earths working together to dissolve the pollution." For him, people in developing countries have emitted just a small portion of the total quantity of greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere, and they shouldn't be held primarily responsible for the deteriorating global environment. Those in developing countries are also most vulnerable and will be the worst affected by global warming.

"It is everyone's responsibility, yet the action required differs from one country to another." This principle was established right at the beginning of U.N. talks on the matter, but it is still far from being implemented.

Shouldering its part of the responsibility, China, while striving to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, hopes to get assistance from developed countries in funds and technology. So far, little progress has been made in this area, despite repeated visits abroad by an increasing number of Chinese negotiators.

Some media person, who was present at all parts of the talks, quoted the former U.S vice president Al Gore as saying, "Not everyone is willing to face climate change, an inconvenient truth, for reasons of interests, and not everyone is willing to solve the problem because of the cost involved."

Lin Erda leads the second working group of the intergovernmental committee coping with climate change. For the past 18 years, he has been the key figure in compiling and evaluating a dozen or more reports on the topic. He was the compiler of the fourth IPCC evaluation report of 2007. In that report, he introduced a weather-predicting model developed by Chinese scientists, the first time the IPCC has adopted such a model from a developing country. Over 100 Chinese scientists are involved in the compilation and evaluation of IPCC reports.

To Li Yan, the white paper China's Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change, and the holding of high-level seminars for technological development and transfers, convey the following message to the world: by taking a leading role in international talks, China is making utmost efforts to urge the rest of the world to construct a substantial agreement at the coming Copenhagen conference in 2009.

"Climate change is getting worse," Li Yan emphasizes. "Almost every week new evidence comes in highlighting the gathering speed and adverse impact of global warming, which is proving much worse than we had earlier expected." All countries should demonstrate determination and willingness to cooperate. "There's no time to loose," Li adds emphatically.

(China Today January 8, 2008)

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