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China Active in Fight Against Global Warming

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The Copenhagen talks entered the critical stage on Thursday as leaders of states and government arrived at the summit intended to map out a comprehensive climate deal.

Premier Wen Jiabao, representing China at the meeting, was expected to expound on his country's policies, action plans and proposals in fighting climate change.

The situation is reminiscent of 17 years ago, when then former Chinese Premier Li Peng signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro.

China has progressed and matured in the ensuing years, which have shown witness to the country's active engagement in global efforts to save the environment and prevent further climate deterioration.

Active promoter of global effort

The Chinese economy gained new impetus in 1992, when Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China's reform, made a historic trip to southern China -- the forefront of the country's opening up to the outside world.

In June of that year, Li signed the UNFCCC, making China one of the first signatories of the UN convention.

The move would facilitate China's exchange and cooperation with other countries in the field of environment protection and development, its using of clean coal technology and renewable energy, and its safeguarding of rights within the framework of the convention, the state council said at the time.

In retrospect, China has always been an active promoter of global efforts against climate change, from Rio de Janeiro to Kyoto, and from Bali to Copenhagen -- the venues of major world gatherings on the issue.

China, as a responsible country, has taken a serious attitude toward fighting global warming and is playing an increasingly significant role in climate negotiations, Xie Zhenhua, vice minister of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told reporters when the conference opened in Copenhagen.

"We have put forward a great many policies and taken a series of measures and have seen effective results, " he said.

To make the developing nations' voice better heard, China has set up a press and communication center in Copenhagen, and its calls to incorporate the population problem into the final agreement of the conference have drawn wide attention.

China is also one of the sponsors of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, an UN research institution established in 1988. The IPCC's four reports on world climate have served as the foundation for relevant talks.

Responsible player

Well-known American columnist Thomas Friedman, who wrote "The World Is Flat," said in a September article in The New York Times: "I believe this Chinese decision to go green is the 21st-century equivalent of the Soviet Union's 1957 launch of Sputnik - the world's first Earth-orbiting satellite... China is embarking on a new, parallel path of clean power deployment and innovation. It is the Sputnik of our day. We ingore it at our peril."

Friedman's views may need a second thought, but one incontrovertible fact is that China has become Asia's "giant of green economy," according to a report issued this year by the UN Environment Program.

China's investment in renewable energy last year surpassed US$15.6 billion with an 18-percent increase from 2007. That ranked first in the Asia-Pacific region. Currently, China has become the second biggest wind power market in the world, and the biggest solar photovoltaic equipment producer.

Li Ganjie, China's vice environmental protection minister, said at the Copenhagen conference that China has issued 71 environmental labeling standards. Li said China also has formed 100 billion yuan (US$14.7 billion) worth of environmental labeling product groups. That's to boost the official purchase of green products, lead sustainable consumption, and help construct an environment-friendly society.

Over the past three years, the Chinese government has adopted a series of notable measures to tackle climate change. China released two white papers and formed a leading national governmental group on climate change led by Wen.

At the same time, building an "ecological culture" was written in the report of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

Statistics from China's National Development and Reform Commission showed among the 4-trillion-yuan (US$586 billion) stimulus package to battle the financial crisis, 210 billion yuan (US$30.8 billion) went for energy saving and ecological construction projects. Another 370 billion yuan (US$54.3 billion) went for self-innovation and industrial structural adjustment.

Meanwhile, China's State Council published the top 10 Adjustment and Revitalization Plans in 2009 to bring forward detailed requirements for energy saving and emissions reduction.

Great contributor

At the Copenhagen conference, Du Xiangwan, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, illustrated China's progress in reducing energy consumption.

Du said that China's per unit of GDP energy consumption was expected to be reduced by 14 percent by the end of this year compared with 2005.

China is on the road to realize the target in its "11th Five-Year Plan," which stipulates that the per unit of GDP energy consumption be reduced by 20 percent till 2010, he said.

On Nov. 26, two weeks before the climate talks, China announced that it was going to reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40 to 45 percent compared with the 2005 level.

In a telephone conversation with Wen on December 11, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke highly of China's efforts in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Ban said that it was a major contribution to the international cooperation on climate change.

The carbon emission cut China has pledged will account for a quarter of the total reduction worldwide in greenhouse gas emissions.

Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said that China would contribute as much as 1 billion tons of CO2 emission reduction of the 3.8 billion tons needed to be done globally by 2020.

Developed countries have reduced their unit GDP CO2 emissions by 26 percent from 1990 to 2005, Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said in Copenhagen. The reduction by 2020 would only reach 30-to-40-percent if they keep their promises, he said.

It was estimated that China has to spend US$78 billion per year for the 40 to 45-percent reduction of emission per unit of GDP, which means at least 166 dollars a year contributed by each household.

That's to say, "the Chinese people will have to economize to achieve such a goal," said Zou Ji, an energy and environmental economist at China's Renmin University.

Calling on the rest of the world to be aware of China's harsh realities, Zou said that China ranked 106th worldwide in 2008 with per capita GDP of US$3,000 and millions in poverty.

However, the West has been jawing about the overall CO2 emissions by China, while turning a blind eye to the fact that the per capita figures of the country are about one quarter or less of those in developed nations.

Prof. Mario Schmidt at Germany's Pforzheim University wrote in an article that the developing nations, including China, provided consumer goods for the West but in return they were asked to pay for the greenhouse gas that resulted from those items.

"In terms of gas emissions, we should look at who consumes but not who produces," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency December 17, 2009)

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