Japan, the host of the G8 summit, has called an "outreach" session on Wednesday on how to tackle climate change. Among the participants is also Chinese President Hu Jintao who is pressing the rich industrial nations to adopt concrete short and medium-term targets to curb the output of greenhouse gases, a major cause of global warming.
The G8 leaders are joined this year by delegates from Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa.
China’s carbon-driven economy has been growing at double digits in recent years. Some scientists believe China has already overtaken the United States as the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Hence, the country is facing mounting pressure to cut emissions. Ma Jun, the head of the Chinese Public and Environment Research Center in Beijing describes the measures China has taken to tackle the global challenge. This includes a national plan that the government introduced last year: “We have a responsibility to the world to reduce our emissions and China wants to be regarded as a responsible country. China has already taken some actions, for example, the inclusion of energy efficiency and pollution-reducing policies in the new Five Year Plan. Within five years we aim to up-grade the efficiency of energy consumption by at least four percent and reduce major pollutant discharges by 10 percent.”
Open to discussions
China refuses so far to accept binding targets for emissions, saying the international community should respect its right to develop. Though it is not a member of G-8 industrialized countries whose leaders are meeting in northern Japan this week, it has been invited to give its views on tackling the issue. Last week, Su Wei, director-general of the Office of China’s National Leading Group on Climate Change said that Beijing was ready to discuss any issues about responding to climate change. This includes discussions on long-term commitments and on setting targets for different industrial sectors, a proposal put forward by Japan. Environment expert Ma Jun again: “Developed countries are mainly responsible for most of the greenhouse gases produced in the past 150-200 years. This is a historic problem and developed countries should take responsibility and show leadership in cutting emissions. We will also shoulder our share of responsibilities, but with an approach which is different from the Kyoto Protocol and other UN regulations.”
Demand for a fair treaty
In 1997, representatives from 149 countries approved the Kyoto Protocol with an aim to control the carbon emissions in developed countries. Under the protocol developed countries were required to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases by an average of five percent below their 1990 levels by 2010. But there has hardly been significant progress. The pact also suffered a massive blow when the US pulled out of it in 2001, saying implementing it would have a huge impact on its economy. As the Kyoto protocol is expiring in 2012, the international community is struggling to reach a consensus on a new treaty. Rich nations have been demanding that emerging economies such as China to also commit to emission cuts, a demand unacceptable to Beijing so far. Ma Jun explains:
“We need a fair global agreement. And for that some big emitting countries are required to make changes and developing countries should also set up their own carbon emission reduction goals.”
At the same time, Ma Jun also insists that developed and developing countries should also cooperate and share technologies.