China Alone Could Bring World to Brink of Climate Calamity, Claims US Official

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The Guardian/UK

China Alone Could Bring World to Brink of Climate Calamity, Claims US Official

Business as usual in China would lead to 2.7C rise by 2050 even if all other countries slash emissions, says energy assistant

by
Jonathan Watts

A worker at a Chinese cement factory. Cement is in demand in China, but produces 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. (Photograph: /Reuters)

China must be far more ambitious in tackling climate change
if the international community wants to prevent calamitous levels of
global warming, a senior US official told counterparts in Beijing today.

David
Sandalow, assistant secretary of state for energy, said the
continuation of business as usual in China would result in a 2.7C rise
in global temperatures by 2050 even if every other country slashed
greenhouse gas emissions by 80%.

"China can and will need
to do much more if the world is going to have any hope of containing
climate change," said Sandalow, who is in Beijing as part of a
high-level negotiating team that aims to find common ground ahead of
the crucial Copenhagen summit at the end of this year.

No effective deal will be possible without the US and China, which together account for almost half of the planet's carbon emissions.

Since Barack Obama entered the White House, hopes for a closer working relationship on climate change have surged along with a softening of rhetoric, but the official negotiating positions of the two sides remain far apart.

Before
arriving for this week's talks, Todd Stern, the head of the US
delegation, said China and other developing nations are not doing
enough and "need to take significant national actions that they commit
to, internationally, that they quantify."

China's position
paper says the US and other nations that industrialised earlier should
cut emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2020, as well as paying 1% of
their GDP to help poorer nations deal with the consequences and causes
of climate change.

But behind the scenes, there is scope
for compromise on the transfer of clean-carbon technologies by the US
and a commitment by China to scale back its emissions relative to
economic growth.

In the coming weeks, the government in Beijing is expected to boost its climate credentials with a massive investment in wind, solar, nuclear and other forms of renewable energy.

Sandalow
said China deserves credit for the effort it has already made, but he
warned that there was mistrust on both sides that should not be allowed
to derail the negotiating process.

Last week China's
state-controlled Xinhua News Agency said the US position made it
difficult to be optimistic about the prospects for a deal in Copenhagen.

"The
key to getting negotiation results will be that the few developed
countries do not shift blame on others and reduce emissions first," it
said.

No details of this week's talks have been made
public, but the Chinese Foreign Ministry described the meetings between
Stern and deputy prime minister, Li Keqiang as constructive.

The
sides agreed to "push forward the Copenhagen climate change conference
to yield positive results," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, the Chinese government aims to move towards a low-carbon economy in its next five year plan, starting from 2011.

"We
must incorporate addressing climate change and reducing the intensity
of carbon dioxide emissions into national economic and social
development plans," said the summary of a meeting on energy and climate
change issues chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao last Friday, according to the central government website.

But
even with the shift to renewables, clean car technology and
ecologically friendly urban planning, China's overall emissions are not
expected to drop for many years. The most optimistic scenario suggests
2020 may be a peak, but the majority of scholars and government
officials do not think carbon consumption in China will fall until at
least 2030.

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