China calls for help on climate change

BEIJING (Reuters) - Addressing climate change head-on is in China’s best interests, but it needs developed countries to do their fair share, President Hu Jintao said in a speech reported by the Xinhua news agency on Saturday.

A worker walks past coking kilns at a coking plant on the outskirts of Changzhi, Shanxi province June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Hu called on developed countries to step up efforts on emission reduction, and provide financial and technical support for developing countries.

China will participate in next month’s Group of Eight meeting in Hokkaido, Japan, where climate change is top on the agenda. Countries are trying to set new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that will take effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Although China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, on a per person basis it produces far less than many developed countries. Chinese negotiators also point out that the country is only just catching up after two centuries of industrialization in the West.

But Chinese policy makers are increasingly worried about the impact on China of global warming, which could dry up rivers that water the arid north and intensify flooding in the south. China also suffers from intensely polluted water and air.

“How we cope with climate change is related to the country’s economic development and people’s practical benefits. It’s in line with the country’s basic interests,” Hu told a study session on climate change. The meeting was held on Friday by the political bureau of the central committee of China’s ruling communist party.

“Our task is tough, and our time is limited. Party organizations and governments at all levels must give priority to emission reduction ... and drive the idea deep into people’s hearts.”

Hu urged organizations and companies to optimize energy use, recycle resources, increase forest coverage, explore water resources scientifically and strengthen international cooperation.

He called for enhancing China’s ability to monitor, forecast and withstand extreme natural disasters brought by abnormal weather.

Already, flooding this summer has killed over 200 people across China, after an earthquake in Sichuan province in May left more than 80,000 dead or missing and millions homeless. Unusual rainfall could make this summers’ flooding the worst in decades, the Sichuan meteorological bureau said on Friday.

Tropical storm Fengshan killed at least 15 people in Guangzhou and Jiangxi province after it came ashore on Wednesday and was downgraded from typhoon level. It killed hundreds in the Philippines last week.

Floodwaters released from a swollen reservoir in southern Guangdong province caused a 300-meter bridge in the Baiyun district of Guangzhou to collapse, Chinese media said on Saturday.

And a month of unusual rainfall in Beijing claimed three lives and injured eight people who were overcome by gases when they tried to unblock a flooded sewer in Miyun County.

Editing by Mary Gabriel