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Ambassador Yu Qingtai, Special Representative for Climate Change Negotiations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Holds a Briefing for Chinese and Foreign Media (08/06/09)

On August 5, 2009, Ambassador Yu Qingtai, Special Representative for Climate Change Negotiations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a briefing to Chinese and foreign media, introducing China's policy and stance on climate change and actions and achievements of tackling it. Jiang Yu, Deputy Director General of the Information Department chaired the briefing which was attended by over 50 Chinese and foreign journalists.

I. Policy, Stance and Actions of China

Ambassador Yu said that China is a developing country which is experiencing rapid industrialization and urbanization. With a per capita GDP slightly over US$3,000, China, according to the United Nations (UN) standard, still has 150 million of poor population. It faces the double challenges of protecting the environment on the one hand and developing the economy, eradicating poverty and improving people's living standard on the other. It is a challenge faced by the entire mankind to cope with climate change against which China is duty bound to fight. We have taken active actions to overcome difficulties, tried our best and made constructive contributions to the efforts of addressing climate change.

China has released the National Climate Change Program which defined the target of cutting the unit GDP energy consumption by 20% from 2005 to 2010. This is an ambitious goal set by China. The country has reduced the unit GDP energy consumption by 10.1% after three years of continuous hard work. We set the goal of cutting another 5% of unit GDP energy consumption this year and will continue with the efforts next year. Despite the difficulties lying ahead, the Chinese government and people have the determination and confidence of achieving this goal. We expect to reduce 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emission within five years, or 300 million tons of emission annually, just through increasing energy efficiency. You may compare this figure with the emission reductions of other countries in the world, including the developed ones and their actual emission reductions. Then you will find that in terms of efforts and achievements China is among the top and by no means inferior to any other country.

China gives top priority to the development of renewable energy and optimization of energy structure. Our objective is to raise the proportion of renewable energy to the primary energy to 10% by 2010 and to 15% by 2020. Coal predominates in China's energy structure, and the combustion of coal emits relatively more pollutants, including the greenhouse gas. We hope to reduce coal consumption by using more renewable energy and thus cut emissions, including the greenhouse gas. China has achieved remarkable results in this regard. In 2008, China was the No.1 user of hydropower and solar energy and the fourth largest user of wind power in the world. Furthermore, China has unique experience in utilizing biogas. By 2007, there have been more than 26 million households using biogas in rural China and nearly 16 million tons of standard coal been substituted per annum, equaling an annual emission reduction of 44 million tons of CO2. It should be said that those figures are quite impressive.

The global financial crisis has posed common challenges to all the countries around the world, and China is no exception. However, attaching great importance to the issue of climate change, the Chinese government has expressed unwavering determination and promised unrelenting efforts. In the economic stimulus package of RMB4 trillion the Chinese government released last year, RMB580 billion will be used for projects aiming at addressing climate change. According to a statistic of HSBC, China ranks No.2 in terms of investment in environmental protection and climate change related projects. We have also earmarked fiscal subsidies for the benefit-the-people projects involving ten types of energy efficient products like air conditioner, refrigerator and automobile. By doing this, we try to raise the percentage of energy efficient products from 5 to 10% and further reduce emissions through the day-to-day activities of society.

He stressed that to fight against climate change China has a serious attitude, clear objectives and solid and powerful actions. He pointed out with confidence that China has the best performance of CO2 emission reduction. Fundamentally, we have realized that to cope with climate change actively, to increase energy efficiency and cut emissions serve not only China's national interest and the interest of its people but also the interest of all people in the world.

II. Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

Yu noted that the Copenhagen conference is a landmark of international cooperation in tackling climate change and China attaches great importance to the conference. There have emerged many global issues today, but it should be said that the issue of climate change can best reflect the concept of "global village" and the need of mankind as a whole for pulling together in times of trouble. Faced with global warming, no country can stay aloof or say it is totally free from the negative impact. The only way out for the international community is sincere cooperation. Therefore, for the common interest of mankind, the Copenhagen conference must be successful and lay down a solid foundation for the international cooperation to be conducted after 2010.

To ensure the success of the Copenhagen conference, efforts should be made in three aspects: first, to confirm the substantial greenhouse gas emission targets for the developed countries during the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period and make sure those developed countries which have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol fulfill emission reduction commitments comparable to other developed countries; second, to make effective institutional arrangements to ensure the developed countries provide the developing ones with support and help in terms of fund, technology transfer and capacity building according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Bali Road Map; third, under the framework of sustainable development, the developing countries, with support and help in terms of fund, technology transfer and capacity building, take appropriate mitigation actions based on their own national conditions respectively.

Since the Bali Road Map was adopted, the negotiations of the international community have lasted one year and a half with quite slow headway. It is only a few months away from the Copenhagen conference. It is necessary for all the members of the international community to show sufficient political sincerity, fulfill their commitments tangibly, not only accept the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities orally but also put it into practice in order to make the conference a success. The Chinese government will continue to participate in relevant negotiations with an active and constructive attitude and stands ready to play a constructive role together with the international community for the success of the conference.

Yu then answered questions of the journalists.

As to whether China will accept the emission caps, when China will reach the peak and under what conditions China will accept the quantified emission reduction targets, Yu pointed out that when a country's emissions will reach the peak or the caps depend on many factors. At what time a country like China will reach the emissions peak depends on a number of objective conditions, including our stage of development, per capita GDP, resource endowment and technological level and at the same time relies on international cooperation, especially technological cooperation. Chinese experts and related departments are carefully studying when China's emissions will reach the peak. No other people in the world hope as much as we the Chinese to see China to reach the peak at the earliest date possible since it complies with not only our interest but also the interest of other people in the world of addressing climate change.

Being asked whether China's position of demanding the developed countries to substantially reduce emissions changes, Yu said that one of the core tasks of international negotiations on climate change is to set the emission reduction targets of the developed countries after 2012. The targets should be established through negotiations and finalized at the Copenhagen conference. China's position on the emission reduction rate of the developed countries remains unchanged. The Chinese government always believes that the developed countries, given their historical responsibility for climate change, should take the lead in reducing emissions considerably after 2012. It is not only the position advocated by China but also the principled stand of all the developing countries. The majority of the developed countries recognizes their historical responsibilities and accepts they should take the lead in reducing emissions substantially, which is a common consensus of the international community. In the process of international negotiations on climate change, the developing countries demanded the developed ones to reduce emissions by 40% which is a fair and reasonable target. We expect to see that the developed countries not only recognize their "common but differentiated responsibilities" and historical responsibilities orally but also take tangible actions of reducing emissions substantially.

With regard to the China-US cooperation on climate change, Yu said that the Chinese government has noticed the US government's adoption of a more active policy stance on climate change since President Obama took office and expresses welcome to that. On climate change, China and the US maintain regular consultations and exchanges which are fairly fruitful. The two sides have reached a number of important consensuses. For example, both of them attach importance and are willing to contribute to handling climate change; think much of the Copenhagen conference and expect to work for its success; agree to make climate change a key area of the bilateral cooperation. We believe that China and the US enjoy a great potential of cooperation on coping with climate change. Both countries depend heavily on coal in their energy mix and therefore face the common challenges of how to use coal more effectively, increase energy efficiency and cut emissions. They have formulated the national programs of using more renewable energy respectively. Another important common ground is that both China and the US pay special attention to technological progress and applying technological innovation in addressing climate change. They have expressed full aspiration of cooperation, and next their relevant experts and officials should discuss and implement detailed cooperation.

Concerning the further differentiation between the developing countries for differentiated responsibilities, he indicated that all the countries in the world are different from each other in one way or another. For example, China and Bahamas differ considerably in terms of territory, population, economy, society, history and culture. But we shall never forget the basis and origin of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The basis of the principle is historical responsibility. Who caused global warming? The developed countries' uncontrolled emissions of greenhouse gas accumulating in the atmosphere over the last 100 to 200 years, or even a longer period of time in the process of industrialization caused the issue of global warming we all face today. In this sense, no matter China or Bahamas, as the developing countries, we are both victims. Compared with a country like Bahamas which is smaller and has lower level of economic development than China, the latter, as the biggest developing country, can surely take different actions in response to climate change. With different national conditions and capacities, the developing countries should take appropriate mitigation actions and make contributions to the international efforts of tackling climate change within their own ability.

With respect to some Chinese scholars' proposal of deducting the emissions of foreign-invested companies from China's total emissions, he noted that many institutions and scholars in China are interested in the issue of climate change and have conducted researches and proposed suggestions and opinions. Some foreign scholars hold the same views. A basic fact is that to China and some other developing countries, the products we manufacture are not just consumed domestically. A relatively large part is shipped to consumers of other countries and regions. According to the estimate of some scholars, about 20% of China's total CO2 emission is generated by products supplied for foreign consumers. Foreign consumers used cheap products made in China, but China is accountable for relevant emissions. Is that fair? Our basic view is to calculate emissions we should not overemphasize reality while neglecting history, overemphasize aggregate while neglecting per capita, and overemphasize production while neglecting consumption.

He emphasized that China will participate in the negotiations on climate change with an positive attitude and play a constructive role together with the international community for the success of the Copenhagen conference.

 


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