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Planet Ark World Environment News World Is Watching China's Climate Progress: U.S.

Date: 30-Nov-09
Country: US/HONG KONG
Author: Jeff Mason and Emma Graham-Harrison

World Is Watching China's Climate Progress: U.S. Photo: Larry Downing
President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh in the East Room at the White House in Washington November 24, 2009.
Photo: Larry Downing

WASHINGTON/BEIJING- The United States gave a guarded welcome on Friday to China's first firm targets to curb its carbon emissions, saying the world would watch progress by the world's top greenhouse gas emitter.

However, Beijing said it would refuse to allow foreign checks on its progress in curbing emissions, despite past U.S. pressure for it to be open about the process.

China proposed on Thursday to cut its carbon emissions per unit of industrial output, called carbon intensity, after Washington announced a carbon-cutting target earlier this week.

"We welcome China's intention to cut the growth of their emissions by reducing the carbon intensity of their economy," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

"The international community will be closely analyzing this proposal," said Gibbs, adding that the United States would continue to "engage constructively" with China on the issue before the U.N. climate change talks in Copenhagen next month.

The new targets from Beijing and Washington raised hopes for a deal at the December 7-18 meeting, but a rift between rich and poor nations resurfaced on Friday when Papua New Guinea denounced the U.S. offer as "grossly irresponsible."

And Australia's senate failed to approve a carbon trading law, threatening to stall a decision until after Copenhagen.

Nine days before the start of the U.N. summit -- meant to agree the outline of a new treaty to be sealed next year -- China said the international community would have no right to check its progress in curbing its surging emissions.

"You cannot apply the same kind of standards for actions that we take on our own, with our own resources, for actions that we take with international support," climate change ambassador Yu Qingtai told a briefing in Beijing.

Foreign checks would apply only to efforts which developed countries paid China to make, said Yu, adding that this was likely to be a "very small proportion."

KILLS ALL HOPE

The U.S. and China targets still added momentum toward a new deal. Indian reports on Friday suggested the Chinese target could pressure New Delhi's climate position.

"China has given us a wake-up call," environment minister Jairam Ramesh was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times newspaper. "We have to think hard about our climate strategy now and look for flexibility."

But some developing nations said the U.S. target lacked ambition. President Barack Obama has proposed cutting his nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, or 3 percent below 1990 levels.

Twelve years ago, former President Bill Clinton offered to cut by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States never ratified. Vulnerable countries including low-lying island states want faster action.

"For many Small Island States, President Obama's offer appears grossly irresponsible and kills all hope for Copenhagen," Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare said in a statement on Friday.

Papua New Guinea is looking to benefit from payments to tropical countries to preserve their rainforests under a successor pact to Kyoto.

The host of the Copenhagen talks, Danish minister Connie Hedegaard, was named climate action commissioner in the new European Union executive which was announced on Friday.

Australia's parliament delayed a final vote on a government carbon trade plan on Friday. The Senate upper house will return on Monday to continue debate. If the proposed laws are defeated the government could call an election in early 2010.

In Trinidad and Tobago, Commonwealth countries representing more than a quarter of the world's population launched a diplomatic push on Friday to drum up momentum for a comprehensive climate deal.

"On this, the eve of the U.N. Copenhagen summit on climate change, the Commonwealth has an opportunity to lead once more," Britain's Queen Elizabeth said.

(Editing by David Stamp)

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