UK environment minister upbeat on Chinese assurance on global warming news
09 May 2009

The British climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, yesterday said that he has noticed a positive change in the Chinese outlook on climate change and that China was serious about reaching an agreement to help to global warming below the 2C threshold.

The 2C mark indicates a global warming target set by policy makers and campaigners towards the end of the century, an average temperature rise after the industrial revolution.

In a recent trip to Beijing Miliband held talks with the Chinese officials about the country's role in global warming and its view on reduction of carbon emissions. The officials assured him that the government of China is now ready to do its part to address global climate change as long as the West does theirs.

China traditionally maintained the stance that developed countries must be more committed and do more to control their emissions before asking developing countries to do so and argued that it would need monetary assistance to reduce the emissions.

The US administration's undertaking to reduce the carbon emissions in the country by 14 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels and the European Union's target of 20 per cent reduction by 2020 have signalled to the world the seriousness of developed countries in containing the climate change issue.

President Barack Obama had acknowledged that the United States has a historical responsibility for reducing carbon emissions and promised stern measures to deal with it. In addition, the president promised huge investments in the area of renewable energy sources.

Miliband is optimistic that the Chinese want to execute a deal in the Copenhagen summit scheduled in December.

The Kyoto protocol on climate change and global warming runs out in 2012 and to keep the process moving, there is an urgent need for a new climate protocol. The UNFCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) will meeting in Copenhagen for the last time on government level before the climate agreement need to be renewed which will be attended by representatives from 170 countries apart from NGOs, journalists and others.

Currently, China  and the US are the world's biggest polluters, each blowing over 6,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair said that the key to a new global agreement on climate change will be a deal between the US and China. He added that negotiators must find a way to integrate the US in to an agreement with Europe and other rich countries that have been working for years to control pollution.

In the recent months, China has given more impetus to green technology by announcing a significant chunk of the $585 billion stimulus package to be invested in areas like tripling of the wind-power generation capacity, upgrading the power grid, and closing down old highly polluting coal based power plants.
 
In addition, the government plans to provide subsidies for energy efficient light bulbs, increased use of solar power and incentives for use of electric cars to stimulate the growth of the technology.
 
The government is also in the process of setting up its own emission standards for the domestic industry.

Britain would provide the CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology in exchange to its voluntary emission controls. The technology involves capturing the carbon dioxide emissions from large point sources like power plants, and its permanent storage away from the atmosphere at a higher cost of power generation.

While speaking at the Peking university, Miliband accepted the rich countries' "moral responsibility and historic obligation" to take the lead on climate change, but warned that developing countries like China faced the severest consequences if they did not act.

"Right here in China, it could mean the Himalayan glaciers melting, the rivers beneath them flooding, then running dry and the Mekong river, for example, losing a quarter of its water by the end of the century," he said.

He added that, China as an emerging world power had an opportunity ''not just to act, but to lead'' to abate the consequences of global warming.

"What will elevate Chinese leadership is if this December, when the world comes together in Copenhagen, its ambition is crystallised into a public commitment in a global deal." Miliband concluded.

Countries could be benefited by the emissions trading, an approach used to provide economic incentives for achieving reduction in the emissions of pollutants. Central authorities set a limit or cap on emission of a specific pollutant and companies are issued emission credits representing the right to emit a specific amount. Those who need to exceed the limit must buy credits from those who pollute less, thus providing the incentive.

Meanwhile, Australian government has postponed the emissions trading scheme by one year acceding to the request from the business houses. The government raised the cut in emission from 15 per cent to 25 per cent by 2020.

Analysts believe that with the US and China agreeing on some action to contain the global warming, the focus will now be on other advanced developing countries like India, Brazil Indonesia and South Africa.

Alarmingly, researchers reveal that since the industrial revolution the world has burned about half of the one-trillion tonnes of carbon, necessary to bring about 2C rise in average temperature and at the present rate of consumption, the figure will be reached in 40 years, much earlier than the end of the century.


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UK environment minister upbeat on Chinese assurance on global warming