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Premier Expresses China's Sincerity at UN Climate Conference

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Friday that China had made unremitting efforts and a positive contribution to the global fight against climate change through energy conservation and pollution reduction.

Wen made the remarks in a speech titled Build Consensus and Strengthen Cooperation to Advance the Historical Process of Combating Climate Change at the opening session of the leaders' meeting of the UN climate change conference.

In the wide-ranging speech, the premier detailed the efforts China had made to reduce emissions, the progress that had been made to date, its future commitments and how it would achieve them, the difficulties it faced, and the need to stay true to the Kyoto Protocol and the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities.

"China has taken climate change very seriously in the course of its development," he said.

"Bearing in mind the fundamental interests of the Chinese people and mankind's long-term development, we have exerted unremitting effort and made a positive contribution to the fight against climate change," the Chinese premier told delegates from around the world.

Wen said China had focused on four major areas in recent years to protect the environment: laws and regulations, energy conservation and pollution reduction, new energy and renewable energy, and forestation.

"We have improved the taxation system and advanced the pricing reform of resource products with a view to putting in place at an early date a pricing mechanism that is responsive to market supply and demand, resource scarcity level and the cost of environmental damage," he said.

China had introduced 10 major energy conservation projects and launched an energy conservation campaign involving 1,000 enterprises, bringing energy-saving action to industry, transportation, construction and other key sectors, the premier said.

Wen said: "We have implemented pilot projects for a circular economy, promoted energy-saving and environment-friendly vehicles and supported the use of energy-saving products by ordinary households through government subsidies."

The Chinese government had worked hard to phase out backward production facilities that were energy intensive and heavily polluting, Wen said. He added that the inefficient production capacity that China eliminated between 2006 and 2008 stood at 60.59 million tons for iron, 43.47 million tons for steel, 140 million tons for cement and 64.45 million tons for coke.

"By the end of the first half of this year, China's energy consumption per unit of GDP (gross domestic product) had dropped by 13 percent from the 2005 level, equivalent to reducing 800 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions," Wen said.

The premier stressed that China had recorded the world's fastest growth in the adoption of new energy and renewable energy and had the largest area of man-made forests.

"On the basis of protecting the eco-environment, we have developed hydro power in an orderly way, actively developed nuclear power, and encouraged and supported the development of renewable energy, including biomass, solar and geothermal energy and wind power in the countryside, remote areas and other places with the right conditions," Wen said.

Between 2005 and 2008, renewable energy in China increased by 51 percent, representing an annual growth rate of 14.7 percent and in 2008, the use of renewable energy reached an equivalent of 250 million tons of standard coal, the Chinese premier said in his speech.

He said a total of 30.5 million rural households gained access to bio-gas, equivalent to a reduction of 49 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

China ranked first in the world in terms of installed hydro power capacity, nuclear power capacity under construction, the coverage of solar water heating panels and photovoltaic power capacity, Wen said.

In addition, China had continued with "the largest-scale endeavor to return farmland to forest and expand a forestation, and made vigorous efforts to increase the forest carbon sink," the Chinese premier said.

Between 2003 and 2008, China's forest coverage registered a net increase of 20.54 million hectares and forest stock volume rose by 1.123 billion cubic meters. The total area of man-made forests in China had reached 54 million hectares, the largest in the world, he said.

Wen said China had not attached any condition to its target for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions or linked it to the target of any other country. He said it was with a sense of responsibility to the Chinese people and mankind that the Chinese government had set the target for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

"This is a voluntary action China has taken in light of its national circumstances," Wen said.

"We will honor our word with real action. Whatever outcome this conference may produce, we will be fully committed to achieving and even exceeding the target."

Wen said a long-term perspective and a focus on the present were needed in tackling climate change.

"In tackling climate change, we need to take a long-term perspective but, more importantly, we should focus on the present. The Kyoto Protocol has clearly set out the emission reduction targets for developed countries in the first commitment period by 2012," Wen said.

However, a review of implementation showed the emissions from many developed countries had increased rather than decreased and the mid-term reduction targets, announced by developed countries recently, fell considerably short of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requirements and the expectations of the international community, the Chinese premier said.

"It is necessary to set a direction for our long-term efforts, but it is even more important to focus on achieving near-term and mid-term reduction targets, honoring the commitments already made and taking real action," Wen said.

The UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol reflected a broad consensus among all parties and therefore must be further strengthened, he said.

"The UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol are the outcomes of long and hard work by all countries" and the two documents reflected the broad consensus among all parties and served as the legal basis and guide for international cooperation on climate change, Wen said.

So the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol "must be highly valued and further strengthened and developed," he said.

Wen said the outcome of the Copenhagen conference must stick to, rather than obscure, the basic principles enshrined in the convention and the protocol and it must follow, rather than deviate from, the mandate of the "Bali Roadmap."

"It should lock up rather than deny the consensus and progress already achieved in the negotiations," Wen said.

The premier said China's population of 1.3 billion presented a special difficulty in cutting emissions but it would do whatever was within its capacity to address global climate change.

China's per capita GDP had only just exceeded US$3,000 and, according to UN standards, China still had 150 million people living below the poverty line.

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