China welcomes U.S. climate cash offer

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - China said on Thursday a U.S. pledge to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate funds was a “good step,” and signaled Beijing was seeking compromise with Washington on its demand for checks on Chinese emissions curbs.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei delivers opening remarks during the start of the world powers meeting on Iran in Shanghai in this April 16, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Aly Song

But Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei, bearing a message from Premier Wen Jiabao, warned that the U.N.-led negotiations in Copenhagen were at a critical stage and could be wrecked if the 193 countries taking part didn’t pull together.

The Dec 7-18 summit is officially due to wrap up a new deal to tackle global warming on Friday, but rifts between rich and poor nations over everything from funding to which draft deal should be on the table, have made for agonizingly slow progress.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to break the deadlock on Thursday with a pledge to help mobilize the $100 billion a year by 2020 to assist poor nations shift to greener growth and adapt to a warmer world.

China’s He, who had previously said finance was China’s top concern at the talks, said the move was positive.

“I think the financial issue is very important. Whatever initiative these countries will announce is a good step,” He told Reuters when asked about the U.S. announcement.

He also suggested that China was working toward a deal on controls of its emissions curbing efforts that would satisfy U.S. concerns. Another official earlier said the two countries were having regular and productive bilateral meetings.

“In terms of mitigation actions (emissions curbs), we can also consider, international exchange, dialogue and cooperation that is not intrusive and does not infringe upon our sovereignty,” He said.

Clinton had pointedly warned China it must accept tough requirements for monitoring, reporting and verification, if the United States is to provide the promised aid.

U.S. officials have likened the demands for accountability to verification requirements that have been the hallmark of past nuclear arms reduction treaties and trade deals.

China has previously said that it would only accept checks on emissions efforts paid for by international funds. But He used softer language and also suggested greater use of a UN scheme that could overcome worries about sovereignty.

“We are willing to enhance and improve the ways we do national communications, whose purpose of course is to enhance transparency,” He said, referring to the regular reports on emissions levels that countries which signed up to the Kyoto Protocol are meant to submit to the United Nations periodically.

Stepping up these could overcome one of China’s chief concerns, that checks could infringe on its sovereignty.

He also said that China’s target would be binding under domestic law and the country would step up its own checks.

Editing by Dominic Evans