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BEIJING (Reuters) - Rich countries must rethink intellectual property protection on energy-saving technology if costs of such technology are to be within reach of developing nations, a top Chinese energy official said on Wednesday.
China, which is set to surpass the United States as the world's top emitter of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, has called on rich countries to focus on technology transfer to help it offset emissions.
"I think we have to resolve a lot of barriers on the so-called intellectual property rights issues," Zhou Dadi, of China's Energy Research Institute, told reporters.
"That means if you really want to help China to speed up the technology transfer process, we have to really think about how to help China cover the high costs. Most of them are not based on material, they're based on intellectual property rights."
Asked if China would raise that issue in negotiations opening in Bali next week that will begin the process of finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, Zhou said: "I think so -- it should."
Zhou spoke at the China launch of the U.N. Human Development Report, which called on rich countries to cut emissions 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 and for developing nations to cut emissions 20 percent by 2050.
But China has repeatedly said it will not agree to fixed targets on its emissions, fearing caps could impact its rapid economic growth.
Instead, it says rich countries responsible for most of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere should bear the brunt of emissions reductions and should help poorer nations by transferring energy-saving technologies.
The United Nations announced on Wednesday a program to support such technological innovation that brings together U.N. agencies with China's energy policy-setting National Development and Reform Commission and its Commerce Ministry.
"It will focus on the provision of the best international expertise to inform and support China's work and to build further, to strengthen, China's capacity," said Hans Troedsson, vice chairman of the U.N. Theme Group on Energy and Environment.
The partnership will initially be funded with $12 million over three years and will also aim to ensure new technologies are disseminated to the local level, where officials have typically prioritized economic growth over environmental protection.
Chinese officials gave mixed views on whether the companies and countries that benefit from using China as a cheap source of exports should bear some responsibility in helping it curb pollution and offset emissions.
"They shouldn't have preferential treatment, but nor should they face discrimination," Commerce Ministry official Wang Yue said of multinational corporations.
Investment by such companies was key to China's development and should not be discouraged, he said.
But Huang Jing, of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said if multinationals benefit from China, they should also contribute.
Editing by David Fogarty