Carbon Credit Watch

China sends smoke signals on Kyoto Protocol

Inter Press Service
March 12, 2002

In addition to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, China has also joined an alternative forum, the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which groups the world’s six leading greenhouse-gas emitting nations.


Beijing: As global concern about climate change and rising carbon dioxide emissions grows, China, the developing world’s biggest polluter, is sending confusing signals about its willingness to clean up energy production and tackle environmental pollution.

China, which accounts for 12 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, was among some 141 countries that had ratified the UN Kyoto Protocol on global warming when it took effect in February last year. The move enabled Beijing to paint itself as a defender of the environment while condemning the United States, which has withdrawn from the treaty, as “irresponsible”.

Since February last year though, China has also joined an alternative forum to the Kyoto Protocol — the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. The forum, nicknamed the “Coal Pact”, groups the world’s six leading greenhouse-gas (GHG) emitting nations – U.S., Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea.

Rather than committing countries to firm targets for cutting GHG emissions like the Kyoto Protocol, the “coal pact” aims to promote technologies that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide in coal and allow it to burn cleanlier. Environmentalists have lambasted the forum as an attempt to divert attention from the refusal of the U.S. and Australian governments to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

China however, has signed both pacts – a stance of ambiguity, reflecting its conflicting interests of meeting its fast-growing economy’s voracious energy demands and placating worldwide concern about global warming. Last week, it also attended the first conference of the Asia-Pacific Partnership, presided over by Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney.

Officially, Beijing has manifested polite but restrained support for the new climate change coalition. The Sydney meeting got little attention in the state-run media, compared to the Montreal meeting in December when Kyoto signatories negotiated the extension and strengthening of the 1997 U.N. landmark agreement.

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