China says rich-poor divide still dogs climate pact talks

BEIJING (Reuters) - The prospects of a new global climate change pact still hinge on resolving the divisions between rich nations and the developing world, a top Chinese climate negotiator said in remarks published on Monday.

An engineer collects water level information on the partially dried-up river bed of the Yangtze River in Chongqing municipality, China, March 3, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer

“Right now there are still huge differences between developed and developing countries in the negotiations on climate change problems,” said Su Wei, the head of the climate change office at the National Development and Reform Commission.

Negotiators from nearly 200 nations continue to haggle over the small print of a sprawling 34-page draft agreement to combat global warming, and an additional round of talks at the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin will begin on October 4.

The deadline for a new binding global climate pact was originally set for the end of 2009, but a final round of negotiations in Copenhagen ended in failure.

Few now expect a binding deal to emerge before the new deadline of December 2010, when talks move to the Mexican resort of Cancun.

In remarks carried by the China Today magazine, Su said the crucial divide still centered on the core Kyoto Protocol principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” which committed richer nations to take the lead in cutting greenhouse gases.

He said industrialized nations were still seeking to “water down” the principle by asking large developing countries such as China and India to commit to quantifiable cuts in emissions.

The two sides were still unable to agree on how the burden of cutting emissions is distributed, and also on the provision of funds and the transfer of key technologies.

Su said rich nations were still putting the emphasis on creating market mechanisms to supply funds and transfer technology, and were ignoring government responsibilities.

He also accused rich countries of overlooking the issue of adaptation to climate change.

The first phase of the Kyoto Protocol will expire at the end of 2012, and Su said China was urging developed countries to clarify their post-2012 commitments in time for the Cancun talks.

“To ensure that there is not a gap between the first and second compliance periods of the protocol, the protocol working group’s most urgent task is to complete negotiations as soon as possible,” he said.

Reporting by David Stanway, Editing by Miral Fahmy