The Copenhagen climate conference is just weeks away and the focus is very much on China, as it recently took over from the US as the world’s “biggest polluter”.
However, China is pushing the focus back onto European countries arguing that any Copenhagen deal would mean little if nations continue to fail to cut their emissions, as promised.Beijing says it will not give up its right to development. But economic growth and climate conscience rarely sit well together. Only a 2%increase in Chinese growth from the 1990s to this decade led to a leap of 8% in energy consumption and 10% in CO2 emissions.In September, at a UN climate summit, the Chinese president, Hu Jintao said that China’s priority was to improve the living standards of its people and that emissions could only be reduced in a post-industrial phase.
Beijing argues that it is down to the old-industrialised countries to stick to the Kyoto principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, where the burden of CO2 reductions is on developed countries. They should lighten this burden by developing and transferring green technologies to poorer countries.
Kyoto also decided that developing nations, such as China, should have until 2020 before binding targets are issued. The aim was to give a competitive advantage for Chinese industry to catch up with Western countries, although now it looks more likely China will overtake.