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Date Posted: 22:21 17/02/2005

Kyoto or bust

China has lots of reasons to support the protocols on climate change

CHINA HAS responded very warmly to the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. After all, as a 'developing country', it doesn't have to do anything about reducing greenhouse emissions until 2012, and could get some useful deals with developed countries via the protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). According to today's Xin Jing Bao, which describes the protocol as a 'historic step', China has already sealed a CDM wind power project in Inner Mongolia with the Netherlands, enabling the Netherlands to 'purchase' an emissions quota worth 540,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

As a Kyoto signatory, China is also pleased about being a responsible member of the international community, comparing and contrasting itself to the United States. Richard Boucher, the US State Department spokesman, said this week that the aims of the US were the same, but it was pursuing different methods to reduce greenhouse gases. 'While the United States and countries with binding emissions restrictions under the Kyoto Protocol are taking different paths, our destination is the same, and compatible with other efforts,' he said. The US administration is, at least, admitting that global warming is a problem, which is actually a mark of progress after the reams of loaded science produced by the Bush regime to justify its inaction.

After citing US objections to Kyoto, a Xinhua report concludes, not unjustly, that 'the US is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.' And indeed, according to the UN Development Program's latest Human Development Report, which cites 2000 statistics, the US produces 23.1% of global carbon dioxide emissions, with China in second place at 11.5%. The stark difference in per capita pollution levels – with each Chinese person producing 2.2 metric tons of CO2 a year compared to 19.8 metric tons in the US - underscores the global challenge presented by economic growth in the world's most populated country, and by Chinese ambitions to double the 2000 per capita GDP rate by 2020.

The head of the United Nations Environment Program, Klaus Toepfer, has stated publicly that using current modes of development, intolerable environmental pressures would be created even if it were actually possible to bring Chinese per capita GDP rates up to western standards. As it is, however, there simply aren't enough resources in the world to enable China to reach those standards.

Among other things, the US objects to the fact that developing countries like China and India are not obliged to cut emissions in the first stage of the agreement. Some, however, believe that the issue of the environment has become another aspect of neo-con geopoliticking. Had China been forced to reduce greenhouse emissions by the Kyoto rate - 5% lower than 1990 levels by 2012 - its economy could well have been derailed, which suits the neo-con strategy very well.

A Pentagon report goes further, predicting that 'adverse weather conditions' caused by climate change could well lead to food and water shortages, but says that the impact will be skewed towards countries like China, where 'megadroughts' and 'a decreased reliability in the monsoon rains' will lead to 'widespread famine'. The region will be engulfed in conflict within two decades, the report predicts. 'The United States and Australia are likely to build defensive fortresses around their countries because they have the resources and reserves to achieve self-sufficiency,' the report states. 'With diverse growing climates, wealth, technology, and abundant resources, the United States could likely survive shortened growing cycles and harsh weather conditions without catastrophic losses.' Not so China, which will in all likelihood be devastated by a variety of domestic and regional challenges pertaining to food, water and energy.

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