China sets price for cooperation on climate change

BEIJING (Reuters) - China wants rich countries to commit 1 percent of their economic worth to help poor nations fight global warming, and will press for a new international mechanism to spread “green” technology worldwide.

A worker drives his tricycle in front of a power plant on the outskirts of Beijing October 28, 2008. China wants rich countries to commit 1 percent of their economic worth to help poor nations fight global warming, and will press for a new international mechanism to spread "green" technology worldwide. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

Unveiling the demands on Tuesday, a senior Chinese official for climate change policy, Gao Guangsheng, said the financial turmoil rattling the global economy should not deter a big increase in funds and technology to poor nations.

“Developing countries should take action, but a prerequisite for this action is that developed countries provide funds and transfer technology,” Gao told a news conference.

“Developed countries’ funding to support developing countries response to climate change should reach 1 percent of the developed countries’ GDP.”

Gao said current funds to help fight climate change were “virtually nothing.” China will detail its proposal at a conference next week that will assemble representatives from the United States, Europe and many rich and poor countries, he said.

Gao is chief of the climate change office in the National Development and Reform Commission, a super-ministry steering economic policy. His call may signal China wants a more active role in climate change talks in which it has usually preferred to stay low-key.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, felling forests and farming are trapping growing levels of solar radiation in the atmosphere, threatening dangerous rises in average global temperatures.

China’s 1.3 billion people, fast-growing economy and bulging exports have pushed its emissions of greenhouse gases above the United States, long the world’s biggest emitter, according to many experts.

But under the current Kyoto Protocol, a U.N.-backed pact to fight climate change, China and other Third World economies do not shoulder specific goals to contain emissions.

Washington has refused to ratify Kyoto, saying the lack of caps on China and other big developing emitters make it ineffective, and many foreign officials and experts say Beijing should accept some goals in a new pact.

These pressures put China at the heart of accelerating negotiations for a treaty that will take over from the current Kyoto pact, which expires in 2012. Those negotiations culminate in Copenhagen late next year.

Gao indicated his government would not play purely defensive in the talks, resisting calls for it to accept emissions targets, and would press its own demands for a huge increase in the flow of technology and funds to China and other developing nations.

Current climate change agreements provide for funds for technology and adaptation steps. But Chinese officials have long said that their country’s ability to cut carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from power plants, factories and vehicles is hampered by a lack of promised technology from the wealthy West.

“The present mechanism is unsuited to the needs of addressing climate change,” Gao said. “Developed countries have not carried out their relevant commitments.”

Western officials and experts have in turn blamed worries about patent theft and sacrificed competitiveness for delays. Some have also said China’s demands on technology transfers have been too vague to negotiate.

Gao said China’s proposal would address those worries and offer stronger protection for intellectual property.

At the two-day conference starting on Friday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will give a keynote speech, underscoring the seriousness of the government’s technology demands, Gao said.

On Wednesday, China will also issue an official “white paper” on climate change, detailing its policies and concerns.

Editing by Nick Macfie