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US climate envoy to seek China commitment
Published on: 2009-06-04
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WASHINGTON (AFP) — The chief US climate negotiator said Wednesday he would go to China to press the rapidly growing economy to commit to hard numbers on emission reductions under the next treaty on global warming.

In the midst of climate negotiations in Bonn, US climate envoy Todd Stern said he would head Saturday to Beijing in the belief that any future agreement must include strong action by China.

Stern regretted that developing nations -- which say rich countries bear historical responsibility for climate change -- have argued that they need an exemption of at least one decade before any requirement to cut emissions.

"Developed countries who do agree to take strong action won't long accept a world in which economic competitors are allowed to free-ride with respect to C02 emissions," Stern said.

"China and other developing countries do not need to take the same actions that developed nations are taking -- but they do need to take significant national actions that they commit to internationally, that they quantify and that are ambitious enough to be broadly consistent with the lessons of science."

More than 180 nations are working to approve a new climate treaty at a December meeting in Copenhagen to cover the period after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's requirements expire.

Stern, who was speaking at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think-tank where he was a fellow, said he would "listen, not lecture" in China and stressed the United States also needed to get "its own house in order."

President Barack Obama has vowed to tackle climate change, in a sharp departure from his predecessor George W. Bush who rejected the Kyoto Protocol as unfair because it made no demands of developing nations.

The US Congress is looking at legislation to cut emissions causing global warming by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

But Stern said that US action would be futile without commitments by China, saying that the industry-heavy Asian economy emitted six times more carbon for every unit of GDP growth than Europe and Japan and four times more than the United States.

China and other emerging economies often point out that their carbon emissions are far lower on a per capita basis than Western nations and Japan.

"What China can do -- and what many in the Chinese leadership clearly recognize -- is not to stop growing, but to grow smarter," Stern said.

Stern said that, while he did not expect any written agreement from his visit to China, he expected the trip to help set the tone in talks with the developing world.

Stern said he expected the United States to step up diplomacy in the near future with India and said climate change would be on the agenda.

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