China minister unusually upbeat on climate talks

HONG KONG Tue Dec 2, 2008 8:13am EST

Smoke billows from the chimneys at a coking factory in Changzhi, Shanxi province November 13, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Smoke billows from the chimneys at a coking factory in Changzhi, Shanxi province November 13, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - China's foreign minister was unusually upbeat on Tuesday about prospects for agreement on a new pact to tackle global warming by an ambitious 2009 deadline, as top negotiators gathered in Poland for key U.N. talks.

Yang Jiechi said that with genuine cooperation the world could find a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol on time and added that his country would not try to evade its part of the burden.

Beijing's climate change ambassador had warned less than two months earlier that negotiations were troubled and the outlook for a deal was grim as rich countries stalled on promises to transfer green technology.

"If we work together, we will be able to meet the target set by the Bali road map," Yang said at the 2008 Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Hong Kong.

China has pledged to reduce its energy intensity by around 20 percent from 2005 to 2010, Yang said.

"We will not shirk our responsibilities. Although we foresee continuous growth of energy consumption in China, we will try to control the pace as much as possible."

About 10,600 delegates from 186 governments, businesses and environmental groups are meeting in the Polish city of Poznan for the Dec 1-12 talks, which come halfway through a two-year push to agree a new climate treaty in Copenhagen in 2009.

"We should participate all of us, in a very serious manner in a series of meetings leading up to the Copenhagen meeting," Yang said.

Barack Obama's election as the next U.S. president provided extra impetus because he backs U.S. greenhouse gas output cuts.

But the discussions are overshadowed by the worst world financial crisis since the 1930s, which will make it "an incredible challenge" to reach a complex and costly climate accord, the top U.N. climate official has warned.

Pressure is mounting on Beijing to act as it overtakes the United States as top emitter of carbon dioxide, but Chinese officials warn that lifting hundreds of millions out of relative poverty will stay the country's top priority.

Premier Wen Jiabao said last month rich nations must abandon their "unsustainable lifestyle" to fight climate change and expand help to poor nations bearing the brunt of worsening droughts and rising sea levels.

His government has been promoting a plan to tackle warming by dramatically boosting the flow of greenhouse gas-cutting technology from wealthy economies to developing countries.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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