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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

On November 25, 2009, the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the All-China Journalists Association jointly held a press briefing, inviting Ambassador Yu Qingtai, Special Representative for Climate Change Negotiations of the MFA to exchange views with Chinese and foreign journalists on the issue of climate change. Over 100 journalists from news agencies of more than 30 countries attended the meeting, including The Associated Press, Bloomberg, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Deutsche Presse Agentur, Kyodo News Service, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, German and French radio of Switzerland, Swedish Television, The Daily Norwegian, Italy's Corriere della Sera, Nederlandse Omroep Stichting, Venevision Spain and Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao.

Yu said that climate change poses severe and real challenges to the entire mankind and needs to be addressed jointly by all countries in the world. With an attitude of being responsible for its own people and people all over the world, the Chinese government attaches great importance to the issue. It fully recognizes the seriousness and urgency of climate change, resolutely pursues the path of sustainable development and has adopted strong policies, measures and actions to address climate change.

In 2007, the Chinese government formulated the National Climate Change Program and clearly put forward specific targets to address climate change. We clearly raised the important binding target of reducing unit GDP energy consumption by about 20% in 2010 over 2005 in the Program. We also set the targets of increasing the percentage of renewable energy consumption to the total energy consumption to 10% by 2010 and to about 15% by 2020 and expanding forest coverage to 20% by 2010. Over past years, in order to achieve those targets, the Chinese government has actively implemented policies and actions on the mitigation of climate change, adopted a series of policy measures on readjusting economic structure, promoting circular economy, saving energy, raising energy efficiency, eliminating backward production capacity, developing renewable energy, optimizing energy mix and planting trees which have shown clear results. Even faced with the serious international financial crisis, our determination to tackle climate change has not wavered nor actions slackened. According to the statistics of related Chinese agencies, as of the first half of this year, China's unit GDP energy consumption has reduced by 13% accumulatively over 2005. We are making continuous efforts to reach the target of cutting unit GDP energy consumption in 2010 by 20% compared with 2005, which equals the reduction of CO2 emission by over 1.5 billion tons. In terms of expanding utilization of renewable energy, China's renewable energy consumption already made up 9% of its primary energy consumption in 2008. As to afforestation, China has had the largest area of planted forest in the world. We have also stimulated the use of biogas in rural areas. In 2007, as many as 26 million of Chinese rural households have used biogas. The application of biogas alone can reduce 44 million tons of CO2 emission every year. No matter in terms of intensity of efforts or real effect, China's contribution to fighting climate change is inferior to no any other country.

In August this year, the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress adopted a resolution, requiring to make the effort of addressing climate change a long-term task in order to realize sustainable development, integrate it into the national economic and social development planning and incorporate it into the legislation process, making the handling of climate change a major part of our future development planning. At the United Nations Climate Change Summit held in New York in September this year, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that China would continue to take effective measures in the next 10 years: first, try to reduce unit GDP CO2 emission considerably by 2020 compared with 2005; second, try to raise the percentage of non-fossil energy to primary energy to 15%; third, try to expand the area of forest by 40 million hectares in 2020 over 2005; fourth, develop vigorously green economy, low-carbon economy and circular economy and promote the R&D of and disseminate climate friendly technologies.

 

He noted that China actively copes with climate change because we adopt a responsible attitude for the future of human society and more importantly it will boost our own sustainable development. In the future, China will continue to follow the scientific concept of development, implement the strategy of sustainable growth, try to control the speed of greenhouse gas emissions in the process of economic development and poverty eradication and make due contributions to protecting global climate.

Talking about the Copenhagen conference, he pointed out that it is an important conference for the international community to handle climate change. We believe that the conference should aim at achieving positive results of the comprehensive, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol with focus on making clear and specific arrangements for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and capital support: first, establishing the quantified emission reduction targets of developed countries during Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period and ensure those developed countries which have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol undertake comparable emission reduction commitment; second, making effective mechanism arrangements to ensure developed countries can fulfill their commitment of providing developing countries with capital, technology transfer and capacity building support; third, developing countries, after receiving developed countries' technology, capital and capacity building support, should adopt appropriate adaptation and mitigation efforts in line with their own national conditions under the framework of sustainable development.

 

He stressed that the success of Copenhagen conference will rely on the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" and the mandate of the Bali Roadmap. The Chinese government will continue to participate in the last stage of negotiations with a positive and constructive attitude and join hands with the international community to play a positive and constructive role of promoting the success of Copenhagen conference.

Then he answered questions of the journalists.

Concerning the question about China's attitude towards Denmark's announcement of reaching a politically binding document instead of a legally binding document at the Copenhagen conference, Yu said that the substantive content of the outcome document is more important than its name. No matter what the final document is named, it should comply with the principles and related provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Bali Roadmap. It shall not deviate from the basic principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities". The final outcome of the Copenhagen conference should lock the progress and consensus already made through the negotiations over the past two years.

Concerning the question whether China believes it remains possible the Copenhagen conference will reach a legally binding document, he said that the key of the final document of a conference lies in the substantive content. Over the past two years, we did have spent much time on discussing some marginal and technical problems in the process of negotiations instead of focusing on the core tasks as required by the Bali Roadmap. Why we have still not achieved adequate progress after 2 years of negotiations? I think it's because developed countries failed to demonstrate enough sincerity during negotiations, on which developing countries unanimously agree. The Copenhagen conference will kick off very soon and we should make best use of the remaining time to promote outcome of the conference, or to lock the progress already achieved through negotiations in line with the basic principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the provisions of Bali Roadmap.

Concerning the question whether all countries should undertake more responsibilities at the Copenhagen conference, he said that the key is not what we talk but what we do. The Chinese believe that word must be honored and an action must produce results. If we fail to do what we have said and at the same keep talking we will do, the result is not necessarily satisfactory. Our expectation and requirement for the Copenhagen conference is very simple, and that is we should fulfill our commitment.

Concerning the question about China's expectation on the Copenhagen conference, he noted that we will continue to make concerted efforts with all relevant parties in a positive and constructive attitude to push forward consensus and promote success. Our position and attitude are very clear. The Copenhagen conference is a highly important international conference and should and must achieve success for the common interest of mankind and for the sake of coping with climate change effectively. China has clear requirement for the outcome of the conference, and that is countries should tangibly implement their obligations and take actions. To put it in another way, countries should honor their commitment and take effective steps in line with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Only in this way can we hold a successful Copenhagen conference.

In response to the requirement that emerging countries including China should undertake greater responsibilities on the issue of climate change, he said that for the international cooperation on climate change we need a foundation which is the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" and established by the international community in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. According to the researches of scientists, the issue of climate change today is a result of accumulative CO2 emission of developed countries in the process of their industrialization over the past 100 to 200 years. From 1750 to now, more than 80% of the accumulative CO2 emission in the atmosphere has been from developed countries, which is the root cause of climate change we are facing today. From this sense, developing countries are victims. Therefore, in conducting international cooperation on climate change, we must make clear two points of view: first, it is a common challenge and needs to be handled jointly; second, countries' contributions are differentiated because of their different historical responsibility and national capacity. The Convention clearly provides for the obligations developed countries should undertake and the actions developing countries should adopt. This is not the proposition of developing countries or China, but a consensus reached by the entire international community including developed countries. To deny the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" will undermine the foundation of international cooperation. Therefore, it is unfair to require China, India and some other developing countries to undertake similar obligations with those of developed countries; otherwise the principle of the Convention will be violated. To developed countries, they should pay greater attention to fulfilling their commitment instead of raising various unreasonable requirements which go against the Convention's principle to developing countries.

Concerning the question that some people believe EU has made many commitments on coping with climate change and China's commitment is very vague, Yu said that EU does have made many commitments. However, if we compare their actions with commitments, we will find there exists certain distance. Here is a simple example. In the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, developed countries including EU member states promised to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in 2000 to the level of 1990. We may check whether EU member states implemented their commitment or not in 2000. The Kyoto Protocol provided for the emission reduction target of each EU member state that during 5 years from 2008 to 2012 each EU member state should reduce its emissions by a certain percentage taking the emissions in 1990 as the baseline. EU member states have different targets, but the overall target should be 7-8%, which is also the commitment made by EU. Now is already the end of 2009. We've noticed that the emissions of some EU member states are even on the rise instead of decreasing. In addition, under the Convention, all developed countries including EU member states pledge to provide developing countries with capital and technology transfer in order to help them increase capacity of fighting climate change. This commitment was made in 1992 and has basically not been translated into action so far.

As to whether China will soon release the specific target of unit GDP emission reduction, he said that we should look at China's measures on climate change from an overall perspective. Unit GDP emission target is only one of our series of major measures. For example, President Hu Jintao said at the September UN Climate Change Summit that we will increase 40 million hectares of afforestation in the next 10 years, about which I once talked with a forestry expert. The expert told me that 40 million hectares of afforestation equals 60 billion of trees. That is to say in the next 10 years China will plant nearly 10 trees for every people on the earth. Those trees will play the role of carbon sink in many years to come. Generally speaking, China's determination of coping with climate change will remain unchanged and intensity of efforts will not weaken.

Concerning the question when China's greenhouse gas emissions will peak, he noted that it is a complicated question and depends on many factors. Researchers find some commonness of greenhouse gas emission curves of developed countries in the process of their development. When a country experiences rapid industrialization and urbanization, its energy consumption and emissions will generally show a trend of sharp rise. As its industrialization and urbanization approach the end, or after it enters the so-called post-industrial era, with the stabilization of population growth, its emissions will experience the process from growth to steady increase, to peak and then to decrease. Many developed countries have completed the stage of rapid industrialization and urbanization and entered the so-called post-industrial era. For a developing country like China, when its emissions will peak depends on many factors first of which are our development stage, technological capacity, per-capita GDP and endowment of resources. The factors also include international cooperation, especially technological cooperation. At present, many Chinese scholars and research institutes are still studying when China's emissions will peak.

 

As to whether China's target of raising the percentage of renewable energy consumption to total energy consumption to 15% in 2020 is too conservative and whether it will announce new target at the Copenhagen conference, he noted that related target of the Chinese government is determined after repeated argumentations. The target is already very challenging and the Chinese government believes with intensive efforts it is achievable. However, the Chinese government holds a clear attitude towards expanding the utilization of renewable and non-fossil energy and will continue to work in that direction.

Concerning the international report that "China's greenhouse gas emissions rank the largest in the world", he said that in view of greenhouse gas emissions we should not just look at the present situation but neglect history. At present, 80% of accumulated greenhouse gas in the atmosphere comes from developed countries and China only contributes to a part of the remaining 20%. We should not just look at the aggregate but neglect consumption. At the other side of emissions are energy consumption and economic development. In terms of advancing economic and social progress and improving people's living standards, we can in no way accept the idea that the Chinese should only enjoy one third, one fourth or even one fifth of the rights and interests of people of developed countries.

 


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