“Developing countries need to seek a balance”

As the Bali conference ends, where does China stand on the negotiations? Xie Zhenhua, China’s top delegate at UN-led climate talks in Indonesia, talks to chinadialogue.

As key climate talks in Bali draw to a close, Xie Zhenhua, the head of the Chinese delegation, is direct about the country’s position on climate change. If rich countries fulfill their obligations, says Xie, in areas such as climate-change mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financing the transition to a low-carbon economy, China will take efforts to slow its increasing greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Developing countries need to seek a balance between economic development and protecting the climate,” Xie, deputy director of China’s top economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, told chinadialogue. “We cannot continue a development mode without any restriction on emissions.”

But Xie expressed disappointment that developed countries had so far failed to meet Kyoto requirements on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by a collective average of 5.2% below 1990 levels. For EU member states, he said, this would correspond to some 15% below their expected greenhouse-gas emissions in 2008.

He also urged delegates to support the EU-backed proposal that industrialised countries should agree to cut emissions by 25% to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

“Common but differentiated responsibilities”

The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” should be strictly followed in the negotiations, Xie stressed, saying some delegates to the conference had pushed for the two-track approach first adopted at the 2005 climate talks in Montreal.

“This means they require the United States, China and India to accept a quantified binding target. But this is impossible for China, because different countries should have varied responsibilities according to their history, development and per capita greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Many people involved in the process, including Yvo de Boer, the UNFCCC executive secretary, Phil Woolas, UK climate-change minister and Hans JH Verolme, director of WWF’s US climate-change programme, have expressed agreement that China, as a developing country, should not have to accept binding targets.


Xie is also keen to stress China’s own achievements in restructuring the economy and improving energy efficiency.

Energy-saving in China had conserved 800 million tonnes of coal equivalent in the period from 1990 to 2005, said Xie, avoiding 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

China’s eleventh Five-Year Plan set targets to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20% from 2006 to 2010, he added, which will save 600 million tonnes of coal equivalent and avoid 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Meanwhile, China is greatly increasing its use of renewable energy. In 2007, China invested 160 billion yuan (US$21.7 billion) in the field.


Yi Shui is chinadialogue’s Beijing branch deputy editor

Yuan Wu is a Chinese journalist