China rules out linking climate aid to transparency

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Friday it will not agree to any deal tying climate change aid from rich nations to its acceptance of tighter international checks of its greenhouse gas emissions, which it said will grow for some time.

A coal-burning power station can be seen behind a migrant worker as he walks carrying his shovel on the construction site of a water canal, being built in a dried-up river bed located on the outskirts of Beijing October 22, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray

Huang Huikang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s special representative for climate change talks, laid bare rifts between Beijing and rich countries, especially the United States, that could trouble high-level negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases from human activity, will be a key player when almost 200 governments meet in Cancun from late this month to try to agree on a “green fund” for poor countries and other building blocks for a comprehensive new agreement to combat global warming.

Cancun is meant to be the stepping stone to a legally binding deal next year that would lock governments into reducing the greenhouse gas pollution holding solar heat in the atmosphere and threatening to trigger dangerous climate change.

Premier Wen Jiabao chaired a meeting of Chinese officials steering climate policy that issued a statement that their government would “work with all sides to achieve a positive outcome in Cancun,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

But even modest gains at the talks appear tough after bickering between China and the United States, the top greenhouse gas emitters that have also sparred over trade and currency ties.

The U.S., European Union and other governments want China, India and other big emerging economies to shoulder firmer international commitments to control and eventually cut their emissions, and to subject those emissions to tighter monitoring.

Huang said Beijing would not yield on what he said was China’s right to make economic growth an overriding priority.

“Recently, we’ve found that some people have always been making a fuss about so-called (emissions) transparency,” he told a news conference.

The key to success in climate negotiations, he said, was advanced economies leading with big emissions cuts and ensuring more aid and clean technology to help poorer nations.

“These are unconditional and should not be linked to anything else,” he said of rich nations’ efforts.

“This is a strong signal. Previously, we haven’t so strongly stressed that as a matter of principle we believe that improving transparency is not an issue.”

China’s emissions would keep growing for some time, Huang added, but he did not specify for how long.

“China’s overriding priority will be to develop its economy, eliminate poverty and raise people’s welfare, and our energy consumption and (greenhouse gas) emissions will experience reasonable growth for some time,” he said.

Huang’s comments underscored the hurdles to crafting a climate treaty that will accommodate the competing demands of emerging and advanced economies

Governments failed to agree last year on a new legally binding deal. A meeting in Copenhagen last December ended in rancor between rich and developing countries and created a loose, non-binding accord with many gaps.

China’s emissions have more than doubled since 2000 and have outstripped the United States’. In 2009 its emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels were 7.5 billion tonnes, or 24 percent of the global total, according to BP.

Beijing has made a domestic vow to reduce “carbon intensity,” the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each dollar of economic growth, by 40-45 percent by 2020 compared with 2005. But it says that goal will not be turned into a binding international target.

Editing by Ken Wills and Sanjeev Miglani