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UNEP Lauds China's Commitment to Combating Climate Change

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The UN environmental agency UNEP Saturday hailed China's commitment to the fight against climate change and the recently-announced measure to render assistance to African countries in clean energy development.

China's State Council announced on November 26 that China is going to reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40 to 45 percent compared with the level of 2005.

"China's announcement has assisted in triggering fresh momentum in the days running up to the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen. It underscores China's determination to continue and accelerate the decoupling of CO2 emissions from economic growth," said Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the office of UN Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director.

He noted that China's announcement, alongside commitments and pledges by other countries or blocs like the European Union, Brazil, Mexico and the Republic of Korea, is bringing the opportunity of a decisive agreement in the Danish capital this month far closer than perhaps was the case only a few months ago.

"China is one among several nations that has increasingly recognized that development in the 21st century and environmental considerations are not a contradiction, but can be mutually supportive in terms of generating growth and jobs for a healthy, prosperous and stable society," said Nuttall in an exclusive written interview with Xinhua.

With regards to the new measures announced by China last month to assist Africa with clean energy projects, the spokesman termed it as "timely".

"Africa is the continent that is the least one responsible for climate change, yet it remains the most vulnerable and also has an especially important need for energy with many of the two billion people without access to electricity living in Africa," Nuttall stressed.

"The decision (of China) to support 100 projects can assist Africa in economic development and diversification in terms of sectors and wider-employment prospects while assisting towards a more sustainable path," said he, "So in terms of fighting poverty, accelerating development and combating climate change, China's announcement to assist Africa is welcome news."

At the fourth ministerial conference of the Forum on China- Africa Cooperation in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh earlier last month, the Chinese government proposed to establish a China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change, as one of the eight new measures to strengthen the cooperation between the two sides in the next three years.

Senior officials' consultations with African countries will be held from time to time in this field, while cooperation will be enhanced on satellite weather monitoring. Development and utilization of new energy sources, prevention and control of desertification and urban environmental protection will also be boosted.

China has also decided to build 100 clean energy projects for Africa covering solar power, bio-gas and small hydro-power.

The spokesman also expressed optimistic about the upcoming Copenhagen conference, "While there is a great deal to be done in Copenhagen to realize a decisive and equitable agreement, there is now a real chance that the UN climate convention meeting can be a success."

He also listed several tests which will be faced with by the participates of the crucial meeting, like whether it can agree on a deal that reflects the science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or in other words, whether it can set the stage for a 25 percent to 40 percent emission reduction by 2020 and deeper cuts beyond.

The funding was also a bottleneck in the bid to strike a pivotal deal in the meeting. Nuttall elaborated by identifying as a test whether "Copenhagen can develop a global financial partnership in which developing economies are given sufficient resource to adapt to the climate change already underway while being assisted towards a low carbon path".

According to UNEP estimates, sums of perhaps US$100 billion a year by 2020 may be needed and there needs to be a quick start fund of several billion dollars almost immediately.

Meanwhile, other elements need to be put in place including action that recognizes the mitigation and adaptation role of ecosystems like forests which will be increasingly important in terms of their role in delivering water supplies and stabilizing economically-important soils against extreme weather events, Nuttall told Xinhua.

UNEP's recent Blue Carbon report estimated that around half of all the world's transport emissions are being captured and locked away by sea grasses, mangroves and salt marshes.

"Copenhagen could and must be the start of a really new and more creative development path for six billion people, rising to nine billion by 2050," Nuttall said determinedly.

The Copenhagen climate summit is scheduled for December 7-18, where representatives of about 190 countries are expected to renew greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, the first commitment period of which is to expire in 2012. It is also expected to outline the post-2012 negotiation path.

(Xinhua News Agency December 6, 2009)

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