China, US avoid committing to mandatory emission cuts

China, US avoid committing to mandatory emission cuts


Indonesia: The world’s top two polluters, the United States and China, say they are not ready to commit to mandatory caps on global-warming gases at the U.N. climate conference on Bali. But that does not seem to worry Yvo de Boer, who says it is too early to hammer out that kind of detail.

“This meeting is not about delivering a fully negotiated climate change deal, but it is to set the wheels in motion," the U.N. climate chief said, as presidents, prime ministers and environmental ministers prepared to join discussions on how to head off the impacts of rising temperatures, from expanding oceans to deadly droughts and diseases.

“Reaching a conclusion even in two years is going to be very ambitious, let alone trying to achieve that kind of result in two weeks."

The main negotiating text for the 3-14December meeting which was obtained by The Associated Press on Saturday mentions targets for reducing the amount of pollutants pumped into the atmosphere, but in a nonbinding way.

Its preamble notes the widely accepted view that industrial nations’ emissions should be cut by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. But even those numbers are likely to set off renewed debate at the Bali talks, which are meant to launch a two-year negotiation for a post-Kyoto Protocol agreement.

Delegates from nearly 190 nations will, among other things, decide what form those talks should take. As for mandatory emissions caps, de Boer said, “I really hope that that is a discussion that will be taken up toward the end of that two years rather than here."

The Kyoto pact, which was rejected by the United States, commits three dozen industrial countries that signed on to cut emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels in the next five years.

One of the reasons Washington didn’t sign on was because it did not set targets for fast-developing countries like China. The two nations are the largest emitters of climate-changing gases, though scientists do not always agree which tops the list.

The chief US negotiator said Washington would come up with its own plan to cut global-warming gases by mid-2008, and would not commit to mandatory caps in the coming days.

That process of US-led talks was inaugurated last September by US President George W. Bush, who invited 16 other “major economies" such as Europeans, Japan, China and India, to Washington to discuss a future international program of cutbacks in carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions.

Watson said the final decision would likely be announced at a “leaders" meeting in the middle of next year. But environmentalists accuse the Bush administration of using those parallel talks to subvert the long-running U.N. negotiations and the spirit of the binding Kyoto Protocol.

China, which is increasingly turning to coal-powered electricity plants and factories to help fuel its booming economy, has also stood firm in saying it would not agree to binding targets. It says the West is responsible for rising temperatures, because it has been pumping climate-changing gases into the air for centuries.

“China is in the process of industrialization and there is a need for economic growth to meet the basic needs of the people and fight against poverty," said Su Wei, a top climate expert for the government and member of its Bali delegation.