China seeks binding climate treaty late 2011: report

BEIJING (Reuters) - China wants the world to seal a binding climate change treaty by late 2011, a Chinese negotiator said in a newspaper on Friday, blaming U.S. politics for impeding talks and making a deal on global warming impossible this year.

A woman carrying an umbrella walks past a puddle in a bicycle lane on a rainy day in Beijing September 17, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray

Li Gao, a senior Chinese negotiator on climate change, said his government would remain unyielding on issues of “principle” in the talks aimed at forging a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The first period of that key treaty on fighting global warming expires at the end of 2012.

Li also vowed to keep pressing rich countries to promise deeper cuts to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activity that are stoking global warming, said the China Economic Times, which reported his comments.

Many governments and experts have already dismissed hopes for a full climate change treaty at the next major negotiation meeting, to be held in Cancun, Mexico at the end of this year.

Li underscored that gloom, but also said his government hoped Cancun could be a stepping stone to negotiations next year that will culminate in a meeting in South Africa in November.

“China hopes that based on the outcomes from Cancun, we’ll be able to settle on a legally binding document at the meeting in South Africa,” Li said, according to the Chinese-language newspaper.

“After the South Africa meeting, we’ll move to concrete implementation.”

Li oversees the international climate change negotiations office at China’s National Development and Reform Commission, a sprawling agency that steers economy policy.

The deadline for a new binding global pact was originally set for late 2009, but a final round of negotiations in Copenhagen ended in acrimonious failure, with some Western politicians saying China was not willing to compromise.

China will be a crucial player in the follow-up talks.

With its 1.3 billion people, it is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases from human activity, but is also a developing country with average emissions per capita well below those of wealthy economies.

The United States, European Union and other governments want China to take on stronger commitments to control and eventually cut its emissions.

But Li said it was U.S. political uncertainty that had stymied any hope of the Cancun meeting agreeing on a treaty to succeed Kyoto.

“The biggest obstacle comes from the United States,” he said. “Without any (climate change) legislation, it can’t possibly join in a legally binding international document.”

The U.S. Senate has dropped efforts to put emissions curbs in an energy bill now focused on reforming offshore drilling.

Negotiators from nearly 200 nations are haggling over a complex draft accord on climate change, and a further round of talks at the northern Chinese port of Tianjin opens on October 4.

Li said Beijing would keep pressing for certain principles, including that developing countries like China should not shoulder the same absolute caps on emissions that rich countries must take on.

Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Jonathon Burch