China greenhouse gas growth "daunting": U.S. envoy

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s push to reduce growing greenhouse gas pollution is impressive but the “juggernaut” nonetheless faces a daunting rise in emissions, the top U.S. climate change envoy said after what he called helpful talks.

The United States’ chief climate change negotiator Todd Stern was in Beijing seeking to narrow rifts over the building blocks of a proposed new pact to fight global warming driven by greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and other human activity.

China is the world’s biggest total emitter of such greenhouse gases, having surged past the United States, the world’s second biggest emitter and long the world’s largest.

China’s efforts to slow greenhouse gas emission growth by encouraging cleaner energy and more efficient production deserved praise, but its projected rise will be testing, said Stern.

“China’s got a juggernaut of an economy, and it’s no criticism that the emissions trajectory that China faces is a daunting one,” he told a news conference after his talks with Chinese negotiators.

“The trajectory is tough because of the power and success of the (Chinese) economy, so it’s going to be an ongoing challenge.”

The veteran U.S. negotiator’s comments underscored how important China will be to the success or failure of climate change negotiations.

China’s greenhouse gas emissions rose about 9 percent last year, faster than any other major economy.

Likely rapid economic growth will push its emissions of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, to between 9.6 and 10.1 billion tonnes of CO2 per year by 2020, compared with 5.2 billion tonnes in 2005, according to a study from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Governments hope to settle on the elements of a new global deal to fight climate change at U.N. negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, late this year. Cancun is intended to be a stepping stone to a binding global deal late next year.

Stern has led the U.S. push for China to accept firmer international emissions goals and monitoring, while Beijing has countered that Washington has failed to take serious steps against climate change and is instead scapegoating China.

China rejects an internationally binding limit on its greenhouse gas emissions as unfair, because it contributed less to the problem historically, its emissions per-capita are still relatively low and it needs leeway to grow its economy.

Stern said he had “quite positive” talks with China’s top climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, and other officials that had made some progress toward a possible deal in Cancun, but a successful outcome there was not assured.

He declined to give details of those talks.

“I think that there is a deal to be had. I think it’s also possible that it won’t come together,” Stern said of Cancun.

Editing by David Fogarty