China appealed on March 16 to exclude its giant export sector in the next treaty on climate change, saying rich countries buying its products should bear responsibility for emissions in manufacturing. "It is a very important item to make a fair agreement," senior Chinese climate official Li Gao said during a visit to Washington.
Climate envoys from China, Japan and the EU were holding talks with President Barack Obama's administration as the clock ticks to a December conference in Copenhagen meant to draft a post-Kyoto Protocol deal. But hopes were fading of reaching a comprehensive treaty, with the U.S. still working out the scope of its new commitment to fighting global warming under Obama.
Developed nations demand that growing developing countries such as China and India take action under the new treaty. They had no obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, leading Obama's predecessor George W. Bush to reject it.
Some statistics say China has now surpassed the U.S. as the top emitter of carbon emissions blamed for global warming. But Li said that up to 20% of China's emissions were from producing exports. "We are at the low end of the production line for the global economy," Li told a forum. "We produce products and these products are consumed by other countries, especially the developed countries. This share of emissions should be taken by the consumers but not the producers," he said.
Li said Beijing was not trying to avoid action on climate change, noting that Obama in his address to Congress last month said China "has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient."
Li's remarks met immediate skepticism, with other negotiators saying it would be a logistical nightmare to find a way to regulate carbon emissions at exports' destination.
Top EU climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger noted that the EU, the Kyoto Protocol's champion, includes major exporters but said they counted emissions as produced on their territory. Asking importers to handle emissions "would mean that we would also like them to have jurisdiction and legislative powers in order to control and limit those and I'm not sure whether my Chinese colleague would agree on that particular point," Runge-Metzger said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009