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China's Climate Change Challenge - 24 Apr 2011  

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Cancun progress on second commitment period and global emission cuts should be furthered at Durban.

Climate change is one of the issues of crucial importance to the interests of human beings and the national development of every country. It requires the collaborative efforts of all countries.

Thanks to the joint efforts of all parties, the Cancun Agreements were adopted at Cancun, Mexico, in December last year. They are of significant importance to furthering mutual understanding and advancing the negotiating process.

China's contribution to the Cancun Conference

The Copenhagen Conference in 2009 caused a certain amount of skepticism among parties about the effectiveness of the multilateral mechanism under the United Nations framework. Under such circumstances, along with other developing countries, China strongly supported the multilateral negotiation mechanism of the United Nations by pressing for more ad hoc working group meetings in 2010, in order to achieve concrete progress and practical results in Cancun, as well as guaranteeing the negotiations got back on track.

In the meantime, by exchanging opinions with all parties on important issues at the Cancun Conference, China enhanced mutual understanding with all parties, so as to overcome divergences and boost mutual trust. China reinforced coordination and cooperation among developing countries through BASIC and the "Group of 77 and China", and had constructive dialogues with developed countries to enhance mutual confidence. This paved the way for success in Cancun.

In communications with the Mexican Presidency of COP-16/CMP6, China put forward constructive proposals and extended its full support. China hosted the last climate change conference before the Cancun Conference in Tianjin last October. The Tianjin Conference succeeded in building a solid foundation for a successful Cancun Conference by creating a consensus "seeking a set of balanced outcomes from elements within and between the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol".

China also carried out a series of practical actions to accomplish the targets of energy-saving and emission reductions set up for the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010). During this period, China reduced its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 19.06 percent on the 2005 levels, which is equivalent to reducing 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions. The 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) attaches even more strategic importance to the work of addressing climate change and green low-carbon development. The international community has recognized China's efforts in tackling climate change, which has bolstered the confidence of all parties in their future cooperation to combat climate change.

During the Cancun Conference, the Chinese delegation was fully engaged in the negotiations, adhering to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and endeavored to ensure openness, transparency and inclusiveness. On important issues, such as long-term global goals, the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, international consultation and analysis of mitigation actions by developing countries, as well as emission reduction commitments by developed countries, China, with its flexibility, communicated with all parties to formulate a plan that could be accepted by all and that protects the interests of developing countries.

The Government of Mexico and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have publicly appreciated China's support and contribution to the Cancun Conference many times, and this has been echoed by the wider international community.

International negotiations on climate change: an arduous task

The COP17/CMP7 will be held in Durban, South Africa, at the end of this year. No doubt the talks will be arduous, but participants should seek to translate the challenges into opportunities in order to preserve the current achievements and reach a new consensus.

The Durban Conference should strictly follow the mandate of the Bali Road Map, carry out the Cancun Agreements, and enhance implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol to achieve a comprehensive and balanced outcome by accomplishing the following four major tasks:

First, the Durban Conference should determine deeper quantified emission reduction targets for developed countries in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol is one of two negotiating tracks, its first commitment period ends in 2012. The Cancun Agreements require that there is no gap between the first and the second commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol, thus, the Durban Conference should fix the targets as soon as possible. This is the most urgent task of the Durban Conference.

The Kyoto Protocol is an integral part of the legal framework for the international community to address climate change. Having a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is a firm demand by developing countries and is a continuation of the existing legal framework and political trust among and between developed and developing countries.

In the meantime, based on the Cancun Agreements, developed countries should raise the level of their emission reduction commitments. Only if developed countries conduct ambitious mid-term emission reductions, can the possibility of limiting global warming to a 2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature be realized. Moreover, only if the emission reduction targets of developed countries in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol be determined, can the emission reduction targets of developed countries that are not parties to the Kyoto Protocol be compared.

Second, the Durban Conference shall also determine the emission reduction targets of developed countries that are not parties to the Kyoto Protocol comparable with the commitments of other developed countries, and the autonomous mitigation actions of developing countries.

In accordance with the mandate of the Bali Road Map, developed countries that are parties to the Kyoto Protocol shall undertake emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, while developed countries that are not parties to the Kyoto Protocol shall undertake comparable emission reduction targets under the Convention. The comparability of emission reduction efforts shall include comparability in nature, magnitude and compliance.

Developing countries should, in the context of sustainable development, actively carry out mitigation actions with the financial and technological support from developed countries. Many developing countries have set up targets for their autonomous emission reduction actions. As long as developed countries carry out international legally binding emission reduction targets by 2020, in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, we can, in a proper legal form, define the mitigation actions of developing countries and recognize their efforts to reduce emissions.

Third, we should implement the relevant financial and technology transfer arrangements.

Most developing countries have taken active actions to address climate change. However, the developed countries are lagging far behind in providing effective financial and technological support to developing countries. Only by establishing effective mechanisms, and providing adequate financial and technological support, can developing countries effectively implement mitigation actions, and make a positive contribution to holding the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius as a long-term global goal.

Fourth, we need to further elaborate on the MRV (measurable, reportable and verifiable) and transparency related issues that were included in the Cancun Agreements.

The Cancun Agreements have clearly defined the principles for MRV and transparency. At the upcoming Durban Conference, China will support detailed arrangements for the MRVs of emission reduction commitments for developed countries, as well as financial and technology support to developing countries from developed countries. Such arrangements shall fully reflect the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities between developing and developed countries.

The international negotiations on climate change are a long-term and arduous task. The Cancun Conference showed that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, as a United Nations multilateral process, are still full of vigor and play an irreplaceable role after 20 years of negotiations. So long as each of our countries takes the interests of human beings as the priority, shows its spirit in cooperation and compromise and unswervingly adheres to the basic framework and principles of the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, we can further the process of international cooperation on climate change.

China has been, is, and will always be, a constructive force advancing international negotiations on climate change. China will work with all parties to make active efforts to achieve a positive outcome at the Durban Conference.

The author is vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission.


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Source: China Daily