The UN’s new climate head Christiana Figueres has said China should be more flexible in global negotiations on climate change. She spoke in Tianjin where 3,000 experts have gathered to prepare for a meeting in Mexico.
China wants to develop non-fossil fuels such as wind energy and hydropower
It's the first time that China is hosting a UN climate meeting. After being accused of derailing last year's Copenhagen talks, China reportedly decided to host this meeting as a sign of its commitment to clean energy.
The six days of talks are aimed at paving the way for agreements at the November climate summit in Cancun, Mexico. However, Beijing’s negotiator Xie Zhenhua is not very optimistic that great progress will be made in China or in Mexico.
China still covers 70 percent of its energy needs with coal
"The meeting in Cancun is only part of the negotiation process and we have to try to reach a legally-binding deal by the next summit taking place in South Africa at the end of 2011," Xie said.
Both source and victim of global warming
The United Nations climate agency is trying to secure a post-2012 treaty to try to restrict global warming and prevent potential environmental disasters. Little progress has been made since last year's failed talks.
China is now the world’s largest consumer of energy and the biggest source of greenhouse gases. At the same time, it is also one of the victims of global warming. Experts predict that extreme weather conditions are only going to increase because of climate change and that there will be more devastating floods and droughts.
Experts fear global warming will lead to more natural disasters such as droughts
However, China's negotiator, who is also the head of the powerful development and reform commission, has ruled out any more pledges from Beijing. China refuses to commit to legally-binding caps on C02 emissions.
"China is still a developing country," Xie pointed out. "Our GDP is only 3,700 dollars per person per year. 150 million people still live in poverty. We’ve got a mammoth task ahead of us. We need economic development in order to improve living conditions but at the same time we have to protect the environment and fight climate change."
Reducing energy consumption by 2020
Last year, China agreed to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. However, if growth continues at its robust pace, this will not see emissions decrease in the following decades.
China also wants to continue developing non-fossil fuels such as hydropower, solar and wind energy and nuclear energy. Currently, 70 percent of China’s energy demands are covered by coal.
China was accused of derailing the Copenhagen climate summit
Five years ago, Beijing announced it would dramatically increase energy efficiency by the end of 2010. It is now doubtful whether China can achieve this goal. In the past weeks, certain local authorities have cut off electricity in energy-hungry factories and private households, in order to reach the energy-saving targets.
However, China's negotiator Xie says this is not the way to go about it. He says China will have to make a huge effort if it wants to reach the goals it has set itself.
Author: Ruth Kirchner / act
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein