10/05/2010, 00.00
CHINA

Climate talks in Tianjin as China tries to clean up its image

The final preparatory round gets underway before the Cancun summit opens later this year. UN climate Chief Christiana Figueres says China’s actions are positive but planning greenhouse gas reduction is difficult to do.

Tianjin (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The final round of UN climate talks before this year's summit in Mexico, set for 29 November-10 December, got under way in Tianjin, China. The agenda has two key points, namely setting and meeting targets for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the gap between major economies and developing countries. The meeting follows last year's Copenhagen conference on climate change that ended in disarray and without a legally binding deal on cutting gas emissions to limit temperature rises to 2C (3.6F). Time is running since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2012. For China, the meeting in Tianjin is the first of its kind held on its territory in 20 years of negotiations.

China, the world’s largest greenhouse producer, is viewed by many as responsible for the collapse of the Copenhagen summit last year. The Tianjin meeting is thus an attempt by Beijing to clean up its image after the fiasco in the Danish capital.

Even so, State Councillor Dai Bingguo said at the opening session that China could not do more than what it did last year. Nevertheless, the country continues working on the green shift it launched in 2003, albeit slowly and with many difficulties.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), said that the Tianjin meeting was a positive step; however, “It is absolutely indispensable that China show leadership, accompanied by all other countries, to be flexible in order to be able to reach the compromises that are necessary before Cancun”.

Many analysts remain pessimistic about the real capacity of China and other key players, especially the United States and European Union, to change their stance and make compromises.

“The future of the Kyoto Protocol is in doubt because of US attempts to weaken the framework already in place to tackle climate change internationally," said Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth's senior international climate campaigner. “Now, other countries, including Australia and Japan, are racing to put the lowest possible voluntary pledges on the table”.

For Rehman, rich countries should instead meet their commitments outlined in the Kyoto Protocol, and "agree tough new emissions targets of at least 40 per cent by 2020 (from 1990 levels) without offsetting”.

"Only action on this scale will give the UN climate summit in Cancun the momentum needed to agree strong and fair action on climate change,” he warned. "If the US is unwilling to demonstrate a similar level of ambition then they should step aside from the negotiations rather than obstruct them."

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