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Indian & Chinese stance on climate talks

Written By Gopal Krishna on Sunday, May 17, 2009 | 11:22 AM

On May 15 2009, Mint reported that The World Bank’s six-sector study, titled Low Carbon Growth in India, to be officially released in two-three months supports Indian stance. The study that India can cut 227 million tonnes (mt) of carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector by curbing transmission and distribution losses, rehabilitating or closing lowest efficiency coal plants, adopting mandatory energy efficiency standards for household appliances, improving fuel efficiency of new cars and light vehicles, and reducing reliance on private transport.

“Draft findings of the study show that given the existing technology and resource constraints and the absence of a global financial architecture for mitigation, India’s 11th Five-Year Plan, if implemented effectively, seems to be an efficient low-carbon growth plan.”

The study models two scenarios for the power sector. The first model predicts that in 2031-32, even with an abbreviated growth rate caused by the global financial crisis, carbon dioxide emissions will stand at 3.4 times 2007 levels, and energy supply requirements at four times 2007 levels. (The increase in emissions works out to 36.7 thousand mt.) The second model, having accounted for inefficiencies in transmission and distribution and slower construction of power plants, projects an increase of 8.8% of the first model’s emissions level—in other words, 8.8% of 36.7 thousand mt, which works out to an extra 3.2 thousand mt of carbon dioxide.

The report says: “The active promotion of car ownership, coupled with their currently low variable operating cost, are likely to cause these growth forecasts to be exceeded unless policies are enacted to promote fast and efficient public transport over private alternatives, and corresponding infrastructure is developed.”

The report projects 86 privately owned cars per 1,000 people in 2031-32, which is currently eight per thousand people, increasing carbon dioxide emissions from transport to 5.6 times their 2007-8 figures.
It adds: “This level of car ownership is significantly less than other countries. In 1990, most IEA (International Energy Agency) countries had car ownership levels of between 300 and 450 cars per thousand. By 2004, no country within the IEA17 had an ownership level of less than 350 cars per thousand (recent data: the UK: 426; Japan: 543; the US: 765).”
IEA17 is a sub-group of countries within IEA.

“To home in on private vehicles as a major issue is exaggerating the problem,” said Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister’s special envoy on climate change. “Having said that, it is important for India to move ahead in public transportation. One of the most important elements of the National Action Plan is promotion of public transportation. It’s not that we aren’t moving in that direction, but we can’t exaggerate this issue. It is very difficult to say we should not allow our people to aspire to owning a car. If you are saying: ‘I will keep my cars, but you, India, I will not allow aspiring to new cars’… I can’t possibly sell this argument in my country.”

Such studies are being carried out for Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and China—the other supplemental members of the so-called G8+5 group—as well as for Indonesia. The G8 (Group of Eight) consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US.

On 15 May, China Daily reported, China will remain firm in its call for developed nations to cut emissions and for other nations to receive funding as the world attempts to formulate a post-Kyoto deal on climate change.

A climate change official said on 14th May that China's long-held position had been detailed in a document that will be sent to the United Nations ahead of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

The submission will be released to the public in two weeks.

Li Gao, a division director of the Climate Change Department of National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said: "Together with each country's document, we submit ours to the UN to facilitate the negotiations before a global climate change deal is sealed."

Once the UN receives submissions from China and other countries involved in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it will map out a draft deal.

While the exact details of China's document are unknown, the government has often said it wants developed nations to cut emissions by up to 40 percent.

It has also said that China, as a developing nation, would give an undertaking to improve energy efficiency and that less developed nations should receive financial assistance to combat climate change.

The first round of climate change negotiations took place in Bonn, Germany, last month. There will be four more UN sessions before the Copenhagen conference.

"No matter what happens on the road to Copenhagen, our stance and principles are long-held," Li said. "We are active both in global talks and taking action in curbing emission."

The Chinese government has said it would avoid promising a cut in greenhouse gases during the 2013-2020 period.

Instead, China will consider setting a goal to improve energy efficiency by 2020, which decreases greenhouse gas emission, a source close to Li's commission said.

"I was told that between 2011-20, China will probably promise to achieve the same energy-saving target as it is doing during the 2006-10 period," a source invited to an NDRC internal meeting, said.

China is in the process of cutting energy consumption by 4 percent per unit of GDP every year between 2006 and 2010.

"We will urge the developed countries to take more concrete measures and set clear targets on emission cuts," Li said.

In a previous report, another NDRC official said developed nations must commit to cutting emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020 as well as ramp up funding for developing countries.

Li said China would also propose to establish a specific financing mechanism for the transfer of green energy technology and funding for climate change adaptation for poorer nations।

Earlier, The Guardian reported on May 6, 2009 UK climate secretary saying that dramatic reversal in US position under Obama has brought Beijing to the table on emission cuts base. China is ready to abandon its resistance to limits on its carbon emissions and wants to reach an international deal to fight global warming, the Guardian has learned.

According to Britain's climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, who met senior officials in Beijing this week, China is ready to "do business" with developed countries to reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto treaty.

Miliband said he was encouraged by the change in tone since late last year in the country that emits more greenhouse gases than any other. "I think they're up for a deal. I get the strong impression that they want an agreement," he told the Guardian.

"They see the impact of climate change on China and they know the world is moving towards a low-carbon economy and see the business opportunities that will come with that."

The shift in the Chinese position significantly improves the chances of an agreement being reached when world leaders meet in Copenhagen in December to negotiate a deal that scientists say is critical if dangerous warming is to be avoided.

While Britain and the European Union – which have a large historical responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions – are pushing for ambitious reduction targets at home, no global climate deal will be possible in Copenhagen without the agreement of China and the US, which together are responsible for more than 40% of the world's annual carbon emissions.

China's official negotiating position is unchanged, but the government is understood to be preparing a set of targets up to and beyond 2020 to lower the country's "carbon intensity". This translates to cutting the emissions needed to produce each unit of economic growth.

Miliband said Barack Obama's pledge to reduce US emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 has unblocked the international negotiating process.

"China used to think the developed world is not serious. That's what they were saying [at UN talks] in December," he said. "But now they know the US is on the pitch and ready to engage with them. It has made a real difference to what China is saying."

His comments echoed the message from Chinese officials. Su Wei, a senior negotiator, told the Guardian last month that the US had made a "substantive change" under the Obama administration.

"The message we have got is that the current US administration takes climate change seriously, that it recognises its historical responsibility and that it has the capacity to help developing countries address climate change," Su said.

But while the tone may have changed, there is still a long way to go before agreement can be reached on specifics.

China wants developed nations to commit to more ambitious reduction targets, to share low-carbon technology and to set up a UN fund that would buy related intellectual property rights for use across the world. Beijing's position is complicated by the fact that it already owns a large share of the patents for wind and solar energy in developed nations.

Europe and the US accept the Chinese economy should be allowed to grow further, improving the living standards of its millions of poor, before it makes overall emissions reductions. Instead, the western nations are pushing for strong measures to improve efficiency and establish caps for certain industries. One possibility being considered by Chinese officials is to set a carbon intensity goal up to 2040 that would include energy efficiency, renewable energy, transport and afforestation.

"It would be very welcome for China to set a commitment for carbon intensity," said Miliband. "It would send a signal around the world."

He was visiting Minqin county, a remote area in north-western China threatened by desertification and drought. Along with the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, the spread of deserts and the shortage of water have highlighted the destructive impact of unsustainable development and climate change.

"We're very concerned about climate change," said Xu Wenshan, the deputy mayor of Wuwei, at a welcome banquet. "Living in such an ecologically fragile area, we will feel the impact directly if there is a further rise in the temperature."

Jim Watson, of the UK's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said it had become the mainstream view in China that global warming was caused by human activity, which was not the view five years ago.

"We see significant policy shifts and encouraging developments in technology, for example phenomenal development of wind power and plug-in cars. That could be a sign of things to come," he said. "My impression is that although the negotiators haven't moved ground officially, there are a hell of a lot of new ideas. They are very interested in low-carbon economy."

Last month, the Tyndale centre published research showing that it was possible for China to begin reducing its total emissions from 2020.

Government officials say that is unrealistic and China has so far resisted announcing a target for when emissions might peak. But the authorities tend towards the later end of the various academic forecasts of between 2020 and 2040.

Watson noted that if emissions are measured on a historical per-capita basis, China is 78th in the world rather than first.



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