China says population controls help fight climate change

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s efforts at population control have helped mitigate the human impact on climate, a family planning official said, underlining Beijing’s sense its achievements are being overlooked at the Copenhagen summit.

Applicants wait outside a university to take part in a nationwide civil service entrance exam in Wuhan, Hubei province November 29, 2009. More than one million applicants are expected to participate in the examination, Xinhua News Agency reported. Only 15,000 positions are available. REUTERS/China Daily

China’s “one-child” policy has created heart-ache for millions of Chinese couples but has also allowed the country to grow economically without having to deal with the exploding population numbers faced by many developing countries.

According to Chinese calculations, the one-child policy has resulted in 400 million fewer people than would otherwise have been born.

“Such a decline in population growth leads to a reduction of 1.83 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions in China per annum at present,” the Xinhua news agency quoted Zhao Baige, vice minister of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, as saying on Friday.

China has limited the number of children in each family for nearly three decades, with current regulations allowing one child for urban couples, and a second child for rural dwellers whose first child is a girl. Ethnic minorities may have more children.

In practice, China’s policies have softened in recent years. Many wealthier people have paid fines to have a second child, and penalties in the countryside are no longer as punitive.

But women still complain of forced abortions, sterilizations, and invasive bureaucratic oversight.

“A solution to climate change is closely related to population management. China’s experiences show that long-term, balanced development can only be achieved through population management and other effective measures,” Zhao said.

A draft text released at the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen said the world should at least halve world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with rich nations taking the lead.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases from human activity, argues that developed nations should bear the burden of cutting emissions because they are responsible for historical emissions while they were industrializing.

It says they should pay for developing nations to acquire the technology and equipment to fight global warming.

Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Paul Tait