At the UN climate conference in Poland, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi insisted on Tuesday that the world could find a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol on time and that his country would not “shirk its own responsibilities”. Over 10,000 delegates are in the city of Poznan to hammer out a new climate treaty which is acceptable to all of the over 180 countries participating.
China wants to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2010
India and China are two countries with very complicated realities. Together they have 2.3 billion inhabitants. They both enjoy an average economic growth of over 8 percent a year and a fast-growing middle-class with Western consumption tastes.
At the same time, they both have hundreds of millions of inhabitants living in deepest poverty.
But the poor can only be helped if the economy continues to grow, says energy expert Pradipto Ghosh, a member of the Indian delegation to the climate conference in Poznan.
“There can be no improvement in poverty alleviation in the human development index without provision of energy. We’re not saying that we necessarily have to emit without there being any kind of policies to address emissions but we have to increase our provision of energy.“
Energy demands are growing, so are emissions
China and India’s energy needs are growing by the day. So are their emissions. Every week, China opens a new 1000 megawatt coal-powered power station. And 3,000 cars hit the streets of India’s capital New Delhi every day.
Yet, the per capita emissions in these countries are nothing compared to those in the world’s industrial nations. Europe produces about 15 times more harmful substances than India.
However, the tables are turning fast. China has already overtaken the United States as the largest producer of CO2 emissions in the world. Beijing and Delhi think that it is up to the industrialised nations to reduce their emissions because their industrialisation polluted the world’s environment in the first place.
“The industrialised countries have to take the lead with respect to addressing climate change and this means that they have to set deep and long-term targets,” says Pradipto Ghosh.
Ghosh adds that the emerging economies will only reduce their CO2 emissions when industrialised nations reduce theirs. India does not want to jeopardise its economic growth with firm targets.
Help to develop renewable energies
But China and India’s governments insist that they take climate change seriously and want to do as much as they can. Both countries introduced ambitious national energy plans to improve efficiency and develop renewable energies earlier this year.
But they need the support of the world’s rich countries to do this, explains Sven Teske from the international environment organisation Greenpeace. They “want a flow of technology and knowledge transfer, as well as financial aid from the industrialised nations so that they can develop renewable energies. If they get firm promises, they will be prepared to sign reduction targets.”
But the West is reluctant to let go of its know-how and technology out of fear it will be pirated.
Top of the agenda at Poznan is how to find a mutually-acceptable solution to the increasingly urgent problems posed by climate change.