China's expectations for the Cancun Conference

By Su Wei
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Climate change is a serious and threatening challenge to mankind in the 21st century. This problem is traceable primarily to human activities since the Industrial Revolution in the West, in particular to the industrialization of developed nations, a process powered by fossil fuels and leading to steep accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is the developing nations without strong economies or advanced infrastructures that are the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.

It requires joint efforts by the international community to tackle an issue affecting every person on the planet. In the past 20 years the world has been looking for fair and reasonable measures to control greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately to reverse climate change. Three international documents embody the achievements made to date -- the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, shorthanded as the Convention), the Kyoto Protocol (shorthanded as Protocol) and the Bali Roadmap (shorthanded as Roadmap).

International negotiations are still underway on full and effective implementation of the three agreements. China plays an active and constructive role in this process.

Recent Developments

The eyes of the world were on the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit held in December 2009. Headway was made in areas of long-term emission cut targets, finance and technology transfer, and signing of the legally non-binding Copenhagen Accord. But it failed to establish a global climate agreement for the years beyond 2012 when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires.

The world continues climate talks this year. The 16th Conference of the Parties (COP) and the 6th Meeting of Parties of the Kyoto Protocol (MOP) will open in Cancun, Mexico, in November.

To increase the chances of achieving solid results at the Cancun Conference, the international community agreed to hold more and longer climate talks this year -- increasing the number from two to five. The first three took place in Bonn, Germany, in March, June and August. The two Convention working groups -- the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) -- convened again for their 14th and 12th sessions respectively in Tianjin, China, from October 4 to 9, making the final preparations for the upcoming Cancun Conference.

Thanks to efforts on all sides these negotiations have resulted in some developments. The AWG-KP and AWG-LCA respectively drafted the negotiating text and chair's text in their Bonn sessions earlier this year, and considered them line-by-line in Tianjin in October. These documents will facilitate negotiations at the Cancun Conference.

Nevertheless, disaccord remains between the developed countries and developing countries in climate talks. At the core of their dissension lie the questions: whether to adhere to the Convention, the Protocol and the Roadmap; whether to follow the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and the principle of equity; and whether the developed countries should take the lead in emission reduction. The most contentious issues are how to share emission cut responsibilities, financial support and technology transfer.

The developed nations emphasize common responsibilities, and make light of the differentiation. They stress mitigation of climate change, and downplay adaptation to the trend. They focus on meetings of small groups of countries, and try to sideline or even supplant the negotiation channels established in the Convention and the Protocol framework; as regards finance, technology transfer and capacity building, they advocate the market mechanism, and play down the liabilities of their governments.

The developing countries protest that the unrestrained emission of greenhouse gases by the developed countries in the course of industrialization is the main cause of the changes in the climate seen today. The onus is on the developed world, with its accumulated per capita emission many or even dozens of times that of its developing peers and the current level still hovering high, to bear the main responsibility in response to climate change. The developing countries insist that international negotiations on climate change should abide by the common but differentiated responsibilities principle, retain the Convention as their main channel, follow the mandate of the Bali Roadmap, and work for full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention and its Protocol. The developing countries call for the developed countries to take the lead in undertaking quantified emission reductions and reducing their emissions significantly as well as to honor their commitments on assistance in finance, technology and capacity building. The developing countries will, within the framework of sustainable development and under financial and technical support from their developed counterparts, adopt policies and measures to combat climate change appropriate to their domestic conditions.

China's Stance

The Chinese government attaches great importance to the issue of climate change and, out of the sense of responsibility for the long-term welfare of Chinese people and the whole mankind as well, calls for substantial and effective international cooperation in this regard. It believes the core tasks for current international negotiations are to strictly follow the mandate of the Bali Roadmap, to ensure full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention and the Protocol, and to address climate change mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financial assistance in a coordinated and holistic manner.

Firstly, the world should stick to the fundamental framework of the Convention and the Protocol, and strictly follow the mandate of the Bali Roadmap. The Convention and the Protocol lay the legal foundation for international cooperation on climate change, embody the consensus of the international community on the issue and constitute the guidebook for the implementation of the Bali Roadmap. The Bali Roadmap gives the authorization to fully, effectively and sustainedly implement the Convention and the Protocol, provides for climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as financial and technical support for the purpose, and determines further quantified emission reduction targets for developed countries for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.

Secondly, the world should take responsibility for their historical cumulative emissions and current high per capita emissions to change their unsustainable way of life and to substantially reduce their emissions and, at the same time, provide financial support and transfer technology to developing countries. Developing countries will, in pursuing economic development and poverty eradication, take proactive measures to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Thirdly, the world should observe the sustainable development principle. Sustainable development is both the means and the end of effectively addressing climate change. Within the overall framework of sustainable development, economic development, poverty eradication and climate protection should be considered in a holistic and integrated manner so as to reach a win-win solution and to ensure that developing countries secure their right to development.

Fourthly, the world should give equal priority to climate change mitigation, adaptation, financial support and technology transfer. Mitigation and adaptation are integral components of combating climate change and should be given equal attention. Compared with mitigation that is an arduous task over a longer time span, the need for adaptation is more real and urgent to developing countries. Financing and technology are indispensable means to achieve mitigation and adaptation. The fulfillment of commitments by developed countries to provide financing, technology transfer and capacity building support to developing countries is a condition sine qua non for developing countries to effectively mitigate and adapt to climate change.

China will, on the basis of the Convention and the Protocol, at the requirement of the Bali Roadmap and in accordance of domestic conditions, fulfill international obligations proportionate to its development level and actual ability, and execute potent policies, measures and actions, doing its share to protect our planet.

China's Expectations

An active and constructive participant in international negotiation on climate change, China hopes the Cancun Conference can complete the negotiations envisioned in the Bali Roadmap and yield legally binding results through negotiations of the working groups of the Convention and the Protocol. Its targets are as follows:

First, the Conference will set reduction goals for the developed countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol through negotiations of AWG-KP . The AWG-KP and the AWG-LCA are the two equally important negotiation tracks under the Bali Roadmap. The first commitment period of the Protocol will expire at the end of 2012. To ensure a seamless transition between the first and second periods, the AWG-KP is pressed to finish its negotiations at the soonest, which is also a precondition for progress at negotiations of the AWG-LCA. Only if the further quantified emission reduction commitments for developed countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are first determined by the AWG-KP, can comparability under the AWG-LCA be established later on. The Cancun Conference is therefore expected to make solid progress in negotiations over reduction targets of the developed nations for the second commitment period under the Protocol, and consolidate consensus reached at the negotiations, thereby laying solid ground for the negotiations to head in the right direction.

Second, the conference should solve the mitigation, adaptation, financial support and technical transfer issues through work of the AWG-LCA. In accordance with the Bali Action Plan, negotiations of the AWG-LCA shall determine the reduction commitments by developed nations that are not Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (primarily the U.S.), and ensure that their projected reductions are comparable to other developed nations in terms of magnitude, nature and compliance mechanism. An effective mechanism should be launched for the developed nations to fulfill their commitment of assisting the developing nations with finance and technology and on capability building, so that the developing nations are able to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In particular, more details should be settled about the $30 billion fund pledged by developed nations at the Copenhagen Conference, including share of contributions, timely and full payment, and measures of management and use of the money. The fund is critical to the establishment of mutual trust between the developed and developing nations. On receiving assistance on finance, technology and capability building from the developed nations, the developing nations will take mitigation measures in accordance with their respective conditions and within the framework of sustainable development.

Obviously, the above goals are not easily achievable. One of the major obstacles is the broad gap between the reduction targets raised by the developed nations and the historical obligations they are supposed to take and also the demands of the developing countries. The other is that the response of the developed nations on issues of adaptation, financial support and technical transfer is far distant from the expectations of the developing world. Their proposal of abandoning the Protocol is completely at odds with the stance of developing countries. There are plenty of challenges down the road of negotiations under the Bali Roadmap, but it is the shared desire of the world to cope with climate change through global efforts. China will continue its active and constructive role in this aspect, and work with other parties toward achieving comprehensive, balanced and legally binding results at the Cancun Conference scheduled by the Bali Roadmap.

Su Wei has attended international negotiations on climate change since 1989, and was deputy chair and chief negotiator of the Chinese delegation at the Copenhagen Conference.

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