China welcomes EU climate deal, says US must do more

POZNAN, Poland (AFP) — China's top negotiator at the UN climate talks welcomed the climate pact adopted by EU leaders on Friday as a "positive step," but criticised carbon reduction goals set by US president-elect Barack Obama as too weak.

In an interview with AFP, Su Wei said the deal struck at the European Union's summit in Brussels as "a positive step."

"We welcome that," Su said. "It is important that European Union continue to take the lead in the international cooperation to address climate change."

He added, though: "Maybe some of the positions have been watered down compared to 2007.

"Of course, we understand in the face of the international financial crisis, countries put more efforts to address that crisis. But we think measures to address climate change should not in any way be delayed or watered down."

Su -- whose fast-industrialising nation has overtaken the United States as the world's leading emitter of CO2 -- qualified this.

"I also heard the very firm political commitments from the ministers of the EU and from the European environment commissioner" Stavros Dimas, he said.

The European Union's so-called 20-20-20 package seeks to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, make 20-percent energy savings and bring renewable energy sources up to 20 percent of total energy use.

The Chinese negotiator said Obama's plan to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 was well short of the mark.

"We don't think it is ambitious enough," said Su, a top official for climate change at the National Development and Reform Commission in Beijing.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States signed but then refused to ratify, the United States was required to reduce its emissions by seven percent by 2012 over 1990 levels. They are now 16 percent above this benchmark.

Even if the United States met Obama's 2020 target it would "mean that they are 20 years behind what is required," said Su.

Some observers in Poznan have said the Sino-US relationship is critical to the success of the UN talks over the next year. Together, the two countries account for roughly half of global carbon emissions that cause the problem.

"You have to get agreement between the United States and China if you are going to get any kind of a climate agreement," said Timothy Wirth, a former US senator and chief climate negotiator under Bill Clinton.

But Su said global warming today was "caused by the excessive emissions of greenhouse gases by developed countries over 200 years of industrialisation -- it is not a matter of relations between the US and China."

China, he said, had set ambitious domestic targets to lower energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent before 2010, compared to 2005 levels.

Some 11,000 participants from more than 190 countries gathered in Poznan to lay the groundwork for a treaty under the UN Convention Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to curb greenhouse gases beyond 2012.

Su said the December 1-12 talks had failed to make sufficient headway.

"We are disappointed with the slow progress -- even no progress -- at this conference," he said.

"We have not got any progress on all of the substantive issues -- technology transfer, capacity building, financial resources and even adaptation," Su said, referring to pillars of the Bali Action Plan laid down last December in Indonesia.

"The developed countries are blocking on every item -- I don't think they are objectively prepared to make any progress," he added.

Rich countries acknowledge their historical role in pushing up global temperatures, but say rapidly emerging economies, including major CO2 emitters such as China and India, must also take measurable action.

Developing and poorer nations argue the industrialised world should lead by example, and foot the bill for clean-energy technology and coping with global warming's inevitable impacts.