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China fights climate change in its own way
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As Chinese President Hu Jintao and Chinese diplomats sat in a spacious hall in Beijing over the weekend to discuss diplomatic projects, they sacrificed the formality of suits and ties in favor of white dress shirts to better weather the warm temperatures inside the building - a measure to help conserve energy.

The temperature in the room is set automatically to 26 degrees Celsius, or 79 Fahrenheit, so the usual attire would make for a sweaty mission.

Two years ago, the Chinese Cabinet regulated the lowest indoor temperature in all public venues during the summer to save energy, with the rare exception of diplomatic occasions or grand state ceremonies.

Premier Wen Jiabao met last week with US Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who were in China to advance bilateral cooperation on clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Wen's deputy, Vice Premier Li Keqiang, told Secretary Chu, a Nobel laureate who is a strong promoter of clean energy, that China adhered to the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" as it actively responds to global climate change.

"Common but differentiated responsibilities" refers to the responsibilities of both developed and developing countries in reducing their carbon footprints respective to their developmental abilities.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) notes "that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries, that per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs."

The UNFCCC was signed by more than 150 countries at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and was approved by at least 192 countries.

George Washington University law professor David Freestone, who retired six months ago from the World Bank as a senior adviser and deputy general counsel, said in an e-mail interview with Xinhua, "I do not see it (the principle) as outdated."

Professor Robert Stavins at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government also wrote to Xinhua:

"The central feature of the principle is (that) all countries should be involved in addressing climate change, their burden in addressing climate change need not be the same, and their relative burdens could be related to their stage of economic development."

Data from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) showed from 1950 to 2000 greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries accounted for 77 percent of the world total while China contributed about 9 percent.

Renewable energy

Between 1850 and 2005, the US emitted 27 percent of the world's total carbon dioxide, Russia and China both 8 percent, Germany 7 percent, the United Kingdom 6 percent, Japan 4 percent and India 2 percent, according to the Global Environment and Energy in the 21st Century, or GEE-21. The Honolulu, Hawaii, -based nonprofit organization carries out research and educational activities on resource management and environment.

Even though China's per capita carbon dioxide emissions were about only one-fifth of those in the United States, the 1.3 billion population and the rapidly growing economy makes China the second largest emitter next to the US.

Cooperating with the world to address global climate change, China looks toward renewable energy sources and stringent emission rules.

In building up hydro, nuclear, solar and wind power capacities, China aims at increasing renewable energy consumption to 10 percent by 2010 and 15 percent by 2020, with an emphasis on supplying advanced energy technologies to rural China to accommodating 750 million villagers in a more environment-friendly fashion.

By 2008, according to the Global Wind Energy Council, China had the largest wind turbines fleet in Asia, with a total power-generating capacity of 12.21 million kilowatts, which ranked the fourth in the world.

The government's incentives policies brought about more than 600 solar cell companies, mostly privately owned, which manufacture 44 percent of the world's cells for solar power devices.

More than 90 percent of the solar cells manufactured in China were exported to other countries to advance their green efforts. However, the production of these cells causes heavy pollution, leading to a greater emission debt in China's industrial areas.

Aggressive program

The task ahead remains arduous.

Currently two-thirds of China's energy supply is fueled by coal.

When he was told that almost 40 percent of China's four trillion-yuan economic stimulus package had gone to green projects, Secretary Locke said last week in Beijing to the American Chamber of Commerce and the US-China Business Council, "China has already adopted the most aggressive energy-efficiency program in the entire world, and they are on track to exceed many of their renewable energy adoption goals."

China and the US kicked off last week a joint research center on clean energy, with an initial funding of US$15 million for research and development, mainly on energy-efficient buildings, clean coal use and clean-fuel vehicles.

At a meeting of leaders from five developing countries' leaders on July 8 in Italy, State Councillor Dai Bingguo urged developed countries to "make an explicit commitment to take the lead in emissions reductions and provide developing countries with measurable, reportable and verifiable support in technology, funding and capacity building."

He made the remarks on behalf of Hu Jintao who could not attend the meeting due to the incident in Xinjiang.

Stavins, who directs the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements, said, "The ongoing dialogue between China and the United States is particularly important."

The American environmental economist, however, suggested capital markets should place more emphasis on supporting competitive cutting-edge environmental technologies.

"Technological transfer will surely be a major part of any future international climate regime that is meaningful, but the most effective way for it to be included will be through market-based incentives for private-sector investment in the developing world," he said.

(Shanghai Daily July 23, 2009)

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