December 8, 2010 / 2:38 AM / 9 years ago

China denies softening on emissions stance

* Chinese diplomat says no shift on binding target

* No proposal yet on oversight of developing countries

By Chris Buckley

CANCUN, Mexico, Dec 7 (Reuters) - China will insist on keeping its greenhouse gas output free of any binding climate treaty fetters, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Tuesday, dismissing an earlier report that suggested a softening of Beijing’s position as a “misunderstanding.”

Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin made the comments in Cancun, Mexico, where negotiators are trying to agree on pieces of a new agreement to fight the global warming being stoked by greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, industry and land use change.

Liu also told a news conference that there would be a “crisis of confidence” if negotiators rejected the Kyoto Protocol, the current main treaty on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which keeps a barrier so poorer countries, including China, are free of firm goals to curb their emissions.

As the world’s biggest emitter of these gases, China is at the heart of many of the long-running talks, which are seeking to build a binding climate pact by late next year.

Many advanced economies want China and other rising economies to accept firmer international obligations to slow their rising emissions and eventually cut them.

On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s envoy for climate talks, Huang Huikang, told Reuters that his government could bring its “voluntary” goals to slow emissions growth and fight global warming under a binding overall framework. [ID:nN06239915]

That suggested a softening of China’s long insistence that it should be free to grow its economy and eliminate poverty unfettered by any internationally binding emissions commitment.

But Liu said China’s position had not changed and that there had been a “misunderstanding.”

“This in nature is a voluntary pledge, autonomous pledge. Voluntary, autonomous means it’s not negotiable,” Liu said of China’s domestic goals to slow emissions growth, speaking in English.

“In terms of nature, it’s different from those quantified limitation reduction targets by developed country parties,” he said.

BINDING

Huang told Reuters on Monday that a resolution or decision under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the umbrella pact on the issue, could bring in the voluntary efforts of developing countries to fight climate change.

“We can create a resolution, and that resolution can be binding on China,” Huang had said.

But Liu said it was too early to discuss bringing the efforts of China and other developing countries under the convention.

“The negotiations on how to reflect the pledges, the voluntary actions — the negotiations has not been completed yet. There’s just some talking,” said Liu. “You cannot prejudge the result by one of the views.”

Japan, Russia and Canada have said they will not approve an extension to Kyoto when the first period runs out in late 2012. They want a broader agreement that will also bind the United States, which did not join the protocol, as well as emerging powers like China and India.

China and other developing countries were adamant that Kyoto, with its division between rich and developing countries, must stay, said Liu.

“It’s also an issue of political confidence,” he said. “It will be an international crisis of confidence” if Kyoto comes into doubt, he added.

Liu also poured cold water on reports that China may have accepted an Indian proposal on the contentious issue of how and how much big developing nations should inform other countries about their efforts to curb emissions.

That Indian proposal was welcomed by some negotiators from advanced economies as a potentially acceptable compromise, which would boost their confidence that emerging economies are doing their part to minimize emissions.

“Actually, there is no substantive discussion yet taken place,” Liu said of the emissions vetting and reporting proposals for emerging economies.

“Of course, it’s obvious this negotiation will not be completed at Cancun.” he said of those issues. (Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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