China Tells Rich Nations to Improve Emissions Targets

Many developed countries have been 'very laggard' on climate change targets, Chinese negotiator claims at UN talks.

China on Tuesday told the United States and other rich nations to "dramatically" improve their greenhouse gas emission targets, blaming the countries for gridlock at United Nations climate change talks.

Delegates from more than 170 countries are in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin this week in an effort to break the stalemate in long-running United Nations negotiations aimed at forging a deal on tackling global warming.

Chief Chinese negotiator Su Wei told reporters that the actions of rich nations should be in focus in Tianjin and the major UN summit on climate change in Cancun, Mexico, next month.

"Many of the developed countries, especially a handful of them, have been very laggard on climate change actions and this has led to failure of major breakthroughs or progress in the negotiations," Su said.

Europe has pledged to cut its emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming by 20% by 2020, based on 1990 levels.

The United States has pledged a 17% reduction from 2005 levels.

But Su said these targets were not good enough.

"We believe it is a positive thing that they put forward these targets, but these targets are still far away from the expectations of developing countries and from what is demanded by science," Su said. "Therefore the emissions reduction goals of developed countries should be dramatically increased."

Su said China wanted the targets to be discussed as part of the negotiations for Cancun.

Rich industrialized countries and fast-growing developing nations have long tussled over who should carry the greatest burden for reducing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

The issue was one of the main reasons for the failure of world leaders to forge a comprehensive and binding deal on fighting climate change in Copenhagen last year.

At Copenhagen the world leaders agreed on a goal of limiting global temperature rises to two degrees Centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

However there was no agreement on how this would be done and by when.

Environmentalists warn countries have to act far more quickly to curb greenhouse gases and stop rising temperatures that could lead to catastrophic weather such as droughts and floods.

China overtook the United States in recent years as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, as its economy has roared ahead to become the world's second biggest.

But China has refused to commit to cutting emissions outright, stating this would unfairly hurt its economic development.

The United States and other developed countries have urged China to commit to emission cut targets as part of a planned post-2012 treaty on global warming to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Although China has refused, it pledged last year to slow the growth in those emissions by reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 40% to 45% from 2005 levels by 2020, essentially a vow of greater energy efficiency.

Su said that China would continue to pursue its own domestic efforts to reduce greenhouse gases independently of the United States.

"Of course the United States has not taken concrete actions but the rest of us cannot use that as an excuse to say 'America is not doing anything, then we will not do anything'," he said. "We can't wait for America."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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