Climate Conference in Copenhagen 2009 and China’s Contribution

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 13:01
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 Premier Wen Jiabao attended the leaders’ conference at the 2009 Climate Conference in Copenhagen, where he worked with other concerned parties and carried out a great deal of difficult and painstaking work. He maintained a positive and constructive attitude in working to safeguard the common interests of developing countries, stressing the right of developing countries to exist and develop and sparing no effort in working to build a consensus. Obviously, the Chinese government contributed greatly to the Conference by helping the international community to make historical progress in combating climate change. Before attending the Conference, the Chinese government announced that China’s carbon dioxide emissions per unit GDP will be reduced by 40-45 percent from the level of 2005 by 2020. This is a target that will require a great deal of effort to realize, showing that the Chinese government has a strong sense of responsibility for the future of humankind.

 The Resolution of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Actively Addressing Climate Change describes the principled stands and concrete actions taken by the Chinese people to address climate change.

 The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China promulgated the Resolution of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Actively Addressing Climate Change (“Climate Change Resolution” for short) on August 27, 2009. This resolution describes the relationship between actively responding to climate change and economic and social development and expresses the view that actively responding to climate change will have a positive effect on China’s overall economic and social development and the immediate interests of the Chinese people as well as on the existence of human society and the development of all countries. We must maintain a strong sense of responsibility towards the Chinese nation and the long-term development of human society and increase our awareness of the importance of addressing climate change and do everything in our power to combat climate change. The Climate Change Resolution stresses that addressing climate change must not endanger sustainable development. In other words, we must balance concerns about the domestic and international situation, current and long-term issues, and economic and social development and development of an ecologically aware culture while ensuring sustainable development. It also stresses the need to adhere to the basic framework defined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol in addressing climate change and uphold the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” The Climate Change Resolution also provides detailed measures to address climate change and stresses that we need to strengthen related legislation, increase public awareness of the need to address climate change and the ability to do so, and actively participate in international cooperation concerning climate change. The NPC of China is the first legislative body in the world to pass a resolution on climate change. This resolution reflects the positive attitude of China’s legislative body and the Chinese people towards addressing climate change and the desire of the Chinese people for development.

 Setting a target for emission reduction represents the conscientious action of a responsible developing country.

 The conclusion of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that developed countries, with their history of more than 200 years of industrialization, are mainly responsible for climate change caused by human activity. According to the report, “between the start of the Industrial Revolution (c. 1750) and 1999, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 33 percent, the concentration of methane by 100 percent and the concentration of NOx by 15 percent. In light of this fact, the international community worked hard for a number of years to formulate the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol defines the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” in addressing climate change and declares that the main responsibility for reducing greenhouse gases lies with the countries listed in Annex I of the Protocol, namely the developed countries, thus legally settling the issue of responsibility for reduction of greenhouse gases under international law. The governments of the great majority of developed countries approved the Convention and the Protocol, and under international law it is the responsibility of all parties to the Convention and the Protocol to abide by their terms.

 According to the Convention and the Protocol, China, as a developing country, has no legally mandated obligation to reduce its emission of greenhouse gases under international law. China’s unbalanced regional development is a fundamental fact, and unbalanced economic and social development is a major problem for the country. China is a low-income developing country with a large population and GDP per capita of only 3,000 US dollars. There are still 150 million people in China living under the poverty line according to the standard set by the UN. China is a country with a low level of economic development, an inadequate supply of resources, and a fragile ecological environment that is in the process of industrialization and urbanization. The country’s primary task is to eradicate poverty and improve people’s lives. In light of this, China must follow a road of sustainable development as a fundamental path to balance development and environmental concerns. Addressing global climate change while ensuring sustainable development is in the interest of China.

 April 27, 2010, a mother and her children look at a book from the section for “low-carbon” books in the Beijing Book Store Building. The store recently installed a special section dedicated to books with a “low carbon” theme to recommend a variety of books about energy conservation, emissions reduction and environmental protection, which was welcomed by many readers. / Supplied by Xinhua

 It is worth mentioning that the “Bali Roadmap” was adopted by the international community in 2007 in accordance with the principles defined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. The Bali Roadmap clearly requires developed countries to commit to reducing emissions, stating that, “developed countries shall define legally binding commitments to make large-scale, quantifiable reductions in emissions that are ‘measurable, reportable, and verifiable’.” It also requires developing countries to take reduction measures appropriate for their individual situations, stating that, “developing countries shall take reduction measures appropriate for their domestic conditions supported and enabled by the efforts of developed countries in terms of technology, financing and capacity improvement in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner.” The requirement for reduction to be “measurable, reportable and verifiable” applies both to the commitment of developed countries to reduce emissions and to the commitment of developing countries, provided that developed countries help with financing and technology.

 China has always maintained a positive attitude in taking practical measures to control the emission of greenhouse gases.

 China has carried out a number of effective measures to conserve energy and reduce emissions. China was the first developing country to formulate and implement a national program to address climate change and China has also worked harder in recent years to conserve energy and reduce emissions than any other country in the world. China’s efforts to conserve energy and reduce emissions have been producing significant results since 2005 when a target for energy conservation and emission reduction was included in the Outline of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development. Between 2006 and 2008, small thermal power stations with a total capacity of 34.21 million kW were closed down and many backward production facilities in several industries ceased production, including a total production capacity of 60.59 million tons in the iron-smelting industry, production capacity of 43.47 million tons in the steel industry and 140 million tons of capacity in the cement industry. Household use of methane every year replaces 16 million tons of standard coal. Energy consumption per unit of GDP dropped by 10.08 percent in 2008, a 4.59 percent decrease from the level of the previous year. Use of renewable energy increased by 51 percent between 2005 through 2008, an annual growth rate of 14.7 percent. Renewable energy used in 2008 was equivalent to 250 million tons of standard coal. A total of 30.5 million rural households began using methane, reducing CO2 emission by 49 million tons. China ranked first in the world in terms of installed hydropower capacity, nuclear power capacity under construction, total area of solar water heating panels and photovoltaic generating capacity. China has the largest area of man-made forests in the world. China’s forest coverage had a net increase of 20.54 million hectares and the volume of commercial timber had a net increase of 1.123 billion m3 between 2003 and 2008. China is the only country in the world that uses an index of energy conservation and emission reduction as a criterion for the performance of leading cadres and pursues administrative accountability up to and including dismissal for administrative leaders that do not reach their set target for energy conservation and emission reduction. No developed country in the world has taken these measures. China’s actions have been practical as well as highly effective.

 The Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation Committee of the National People’s Congress is responsible for implementing the Climate Change Resolution.

 The NPC of China is taking climate change very seriously. It approved the Convention back in 1992 and adopted the Climate Change Resolution in 2009. The Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation Committee of the NPC (“Environment Committee” for short) is resolutely implementing the Climate Change Resolution, mainly concentrating on four areas:

 First, we are actively participating in the formulation and revision of laws and regulations related to climate change. China has formulated over 30 laws on the environment and resources designed to help address climate change, including the Environmental Protection Law, Marine Environment Protection Law, Energy Conservation Law, Renewable Energy Law, Law to Promote Clean Production, Circular Economy Promotion Law, Forest Law, Grassland Law, Water Law, and Soil and Water Conservation Law, and recently passed a revision of the Renewable Energy Law. The Standing Committee of the NPC declared that a focus of legislative work should be improvement of laws related to climate change and environmental protection. The Environment Committee of the NPC will be evaluating, deliberating and drafting laws related to climate change in accordance with the legislation plan of the Standing Committee and take part in reviewing related laws of the Standing Committee.

 Second, the Environment Committee oversees government realization of targets. The Climate Change Resolution requires that the issue of climate change be addressed in the plan for national economic and social development and that addressing climate change be a key part of the oversight work of the people’s congress. It also calls on the NPC to strengthen its oversight of the implementation of related laws to ensure they are effectively implemented. This year the Environment Committee will be monitoring and inspecting implementation of the Law to Promote Clean Production, following an approach of relating efforts to the central task, focusing on the key areas and carefully following through on all aspects of the work. In addition, we will employ a variety of means to monitor and inspect efforts to conserve energy and reduce emissions on an annual basis and oversee government implementation of related laws and systems to ensure that targets and tasks for reduction of emissions are fulfilled. We will be supporting various measures to improve technology, working to improve the structure of energy production and consumption, supporting efforts to increase use of clean coal technology and develop renewable energy sources, including hydropower, wind power, solar power, and biomass, working hard to make the economy greener and actively working to develop a low-carbon economy and circular economy. 

 Third, the Environment Committee is carrying out a publicity campaign to encourage emission reduction through the China Century Environmental Protection Program. We have recently been helping formulate and revise laws to develop institutions that allow public participation and oversight. The purpose of developing and improving institutions for public participation is to give full play to the oversight role of the public and the media, which is an important way of helping ensure that targets and tasks are fulfilled. This publicity campaign, which is in response to the call of the leaders on the Standing Committee to “increase the transparency of the NPC’s oversight work,” will make effective use of the media in focusing on legislation related to environmental protection and oversight. We will launch two rounds of reportage every year, conducting interviews with people online and conducting interviews with all the media to publicize the results of the legislative and oversight efforts of the NPC.

 Fourth, we are working with other countries to address climate change. Since 2005 the Environment Committee, on behalf of the Standing Committee of the NPC, has led NPC delegations to the sessions of the Global Legislators Forum on Climate Change held in London, Brasilia, Washington, Rome, Tokyo and Copenhagen. We took this opportunity to inform the other participants of the progress and achievements China has made, first of all keeping in mind the need to protect the national interests. As part of our participation, we worked extensively with congressional representatives of the other countries to inform them of our correct stands, thus creating an excellent atmosphere for inter-governmental talks. The International Forum on Environmental Legislation and Sustainable Development held in Beijing in October 2009 produced the Consensus of the Forum on Promoting Development of New and Renewable Energy Sources through Legislation. This document was an important forerunner for the Outcome Document of the GLOBE Copenhagen Legislators Forum agreed upon by 100 congressional representatives from the congresses of 20 countries and submitted at the Copenhagen session. The Chinese NPC delegation submitted this document on the opening day of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to the leader of the host country on behalf of the 20 congresses that concluded it.

(From Qiushi in Chinese, No. 3, 2010)

Note: Author: Chairman of the Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation Committee of the National People’s Congress, P.R.C  

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