Change in Chinese position bright spot at doomed Durban talks
Dec 5, 2011, 19:44 GMT
Durban, South Africa - China's delegate to the United Nations climate conference in South Africa kicked off the conference on Monday with a surprise announcement: China, he said, might favour carbon curbs - eventually.
'China will likely accept a post-2020 target for carbon dioxide emissions in the event that agreement can be reached at Durban,' Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Committee, was quoted as saying on government-run website china.org.cn.
The announcement was noteworthy because China - now the word's largest producer of ozone-depleting carbon dioxide gas - had been against curbs that, it feared, would limit its growth.
South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is hosting delegates at this week's conference, praised the apparent shift in stance.
'China is laying its cards on the table. Other negotiators will be laying the cards on the table and work then gets escalated. And that is what makes us hopeful we are moving in the right direction.'
Heads of state and top officials from more than 190 countries arrived Monday in Durban for a second week of talks aimed at forging a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol, which went into force in 2005, but lapses in 2012.
Delegates were to hack out a replacement mandate, known as Kyoto II, which from its very start seemed likely to stall unless major polluters such as the United States or China stepped up and announced its support.
China thus appeared to have revived what promised to be a tough - and possibly feckless - series of talks.
Shortly after the Chinese announcement, the United States' climate negotiator, Todd Stern, replied to the apparent Chinese change in position in a video interview posted to the YouTube page of progressive non-governmental organization Thinkprogress.org.
'I don't think it's anything different, when you deconstruct it, from what we've seen before, but I have to meet with my counterpart Xie Zhenhua to see,' Stern said.
China and the United States account for 40 per cent of global emissions.
The Chinese statement aside, the climate talks were seen as tough.
The world's three biggest producers of carbon emissions - China, the United States and India - were neither covered under Kyoto nor willing - at least until Monday's China surprise - to engage in future talks about a new, legally binding treaty.
The European Union has said it would leave Kyoto unless major carbon emitting nations joined, by 2015, a new treaty that would go into effect in 2020.
Russia, Canada and Japan have already signalled their intent to leave Kyoto in December 2012. And Canada might exit the treaty as early as this December.
'There is real danger that the Kyoto Protocol will be buried here in Durban,' the environmental organization Greenpeace's climate expert Stefan Krug told dpa.