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China's active climate policy thread of hope to Copenhagen talks
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As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for solid political will and the leading role of industrialized countries to tackle global warming, China showed a "sincere and inspiring" stance to help address the common challenge to human society.

Chinese President Hu Jintao unveiled a number of climate targets and plans in his address to the opening session of the United Nations climate summit Tuesday in New York, including a promise that China would cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by "a notable margin" by 2020 from the 2005 level, which was welcomed by leading climate policy experts at home and abroad.

Feng Fei, a senior research fellow at the State Council Development Research Center, one of China's top think tanks, said in an interview with Xinhua Wednesday, "The inspiring stance from China will definitely influence the United States and other developed countries to speed up their action.

"Disputes between industrialized and developing nations won't disappear, but the pledge from China will be of much help in achieving a positive goal at the Copenhagen conference later this year," Feng said.

State and government leaders from about 190 countries will attend the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) December in Copenhagen, Denmark. The meeting is expected to renew greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions reduction targets set by the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol, which are to expire in 2012.

Qi Ye, a Tsinghua University climate policy expert, said China has set a good example ahead of the COP15.

"The government has combined measures including global warming awareness, emissions reduction targets and policy incentives, which obviously show China is now thinking in a more sophisticated way on handling climate issues," Qi said.

Qi said it was a substantial change for China to incorporate plans addressing climate change into national planning for coordinated economic and social development, as announced by Hu.

"Climate change is now becoming really a national concern," Qi said. "I hope China's political resolve and practical measures will encourage other countries."

Kelly Gallagher, senior associate of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, said, "China's new plan to set a domestic greenhouse gases intensity target is very intriguing."

"It's clear from President Hu's speech that serious consideration is now being given to domestic policy in China. Let's hope that the U.S. Senate is equally serious," Gallagher, who also teaches at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, told Xinhua in an email interview.

Domestic experts interviewed by Xinhua all agreed China was making strenuous efforts to combat global warming, while at the same time maintaining the dynamics of its own economy.

According to Hu's statement, China would strive to develop renewable energy and nuclear energy, and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in energy consumption to about 15 percent by 2020, which was at about nine percent at the end of 2008. He also said China would increase the forest cover by 40 million hectares by 2020 to absorb carbon.

"It's ambitious to reach these high standards and it is the best the government can do, given overall considerations," Qi said.

Stock markets responded favorably to Hu's initiatives to develop renewable energy, particularly the nuclear sector. The share price of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange-listed (000777) company Sufa Technology Industry Co., a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC), rose, within 15 minutes after the Wednesday opening, to the 10-percent limit and ended up at 18.08 yuan (2.65 U.S. dollars) per share.

President Hu also said China would boost the development of a green, low-carbon economy, while increasing the research, development and wide use of climate-friendly technologies.

Feng was quite upbeat about China's pioneering green economy, mentioning that 30 percent of the 4-trillion-yuan economic stimulus funds announced in November would be funneled to green investments such as public transportation and energy-saving and emission-reduction projects.

"It's likely that the green path will stimulate economic growth and lead a new round of economic restructuring in the global market, which is strategically important to China," Feng said.

China and other developing countries were in need of technical and financial support from developed countries in dealing with global warming, Feng added.

At the summit, President Hu urged developed countries to take the lead in cutting GHG emissions and developing countries to work hard in combating climate change with support from developed countries.

Hu also said all nations should "commit to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities", along with other principles including achieving mutual benefit and win-win outcomes, promoting common development and ensuring financing and technologies.

U.S. President Barak Obama also addressed the summit prior to Hu's speech. Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements, said there was a remarkable consistency between the remarks of the two presidents on global climate change policy.

"Obama's offer to work constructively with his colleagues at the G20 (meeting in the U.S. city of Pittsburgh) to phase out fossil fuel subsidies fits perfectly with Hu's call for 'achieving mutual benefit and win-win outcomes'," said Stavins, professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

"China and the U.S. are the two most important nations in terms of the global climate, so progressive actions by these two countries are key," he told Xinhua in an email interview.

(Xinhua News Agency September 23, 2009)

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