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China confronts global warming dilemma

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The official 2008 government white paper, China's Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change, states without reservation: “The rise of global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is mainly caused by the increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, chiefly consisting of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, emitted as a result of human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes of land use.”

Rather, the debate over climate change in China has been focused on who should take responsibility for it and who should pay for the measures to remedy it. Looming over all is the question of to what extent measures to curb CO2 emissions and the use of coal could impede the country’s economic growth — impediments Beijing has indicated it will not accept.

The Chinese government insists that Western countries, which have contributed the bulk of cumulative carbon emissions over time, bear the primary responsibility.

As Xie Zhenhua, vice minister of China’s top economic ministry told an audience of top legislators in Beijing in August: “Developed and developing countries are still the two major factions, and the focus of disagreement remains on each country’s proportion of responsibility for emission reduction, funding, and technology transfer.”

Ambitious green targets
Beijing has so far resisted the notion of internationally binding carbon caps, such as those that may be discussed at Copenhagen. But China does have in place two ambitious green targets, as part of its current Five-Year Plan, which would curb (though not forestall) future growth in carbon emissions.

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