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Upbeat China ready to work for global cause
2009/12/17

Today world leaders, including Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, will gather in Copenhagen. Deal or no deal, they know that there must be a global effort to tackle climate change. China is upbeat about the prospect.

In the United Nations Development Programme's Billion Trees campaign, the Chinese people planted 2.6 billion trees, two per person and more than any other country in the world. It has become fashionable for young couples to plant trees to celebrate their weddings. What is more, in the stimulus package of more than £400 billion to tackle the financial crisis, about 15 per cent is, or will, be invested in projects related to addressing climate change and improving the environment.

China recently announced compulsory and verifiable targets for 2020 based on 2005 levels: bringing down CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 per cent; increasing the proportion of non-fossil energy to 15 per cent; and expanding forest coverage by 40 million hectares, which is more than 1.5 times the size of Britain.

But fulfilling these targets will cost an additional £39 per household annually for the next 10 years, and we have to remember that China remains a developing country. Its per capita GDP has just passed $3,000 (£1,830) – Britain reached this level as early as 1913. China has 150 million people living on less than $1 (61p) a day. For them, the most basic things we take for granted, such as water and electricity, are beyond reach.

In the north-west of the country, for example, clean water is so scarce that farmers in a village in Gansu province only take three baths in their entire life, at birth, marriage and death. If we cannot ask rich people to give up their houses and cars, who are we to tell those farmers in China that they have no right to have what others have?

China's difficult mission is to enable all of its 1.3 billion people to have the opportunity to realise their dreams, but to achieve them in an environmentally responsible way. Yes, China is the world's largest CO2 emitter, but we have condensed two centuries of industrialisation into just 30 years. And when it comes to per capita figures, China's emissions are only a quarter those of the United States and half of Britain's. You can hardly call China energy greedy.

This is why we believe the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" should be respected. Developed countries should take the lead in helping developing countries – they cannot be compared like for like.

China is willing to play a constructive role in Copenhagen. Climate change is a global challenge requiring global solutions. We look forward to close co-operation with the world in this process.

Article by Ambassador Fu Ying to the Daily Telegraph on December 17th

 

 

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