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China Says Nations Have a ‘Common Duty’ on Climate

Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- A Chinese climate change official said countries share “a common duty and responsibility” to tackle the issue, even in the absence of an international agreement on what steps to take.

Nations shouldn’t delay acting on climate change, Sun Zhen, deputy general counsel at the National Development and Reform Commission’s department of climate change, said at a global warming forum in Hong Kong today. “Evidence of the effects of climate change is there,” he said.

Talks in China aimed at reaching an agreement to mitigate climate change ended last month with little sign the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters are resolving their differences. The U.S. wants China and some larger developing countries to accept international scrutiny of their measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. China said at the Tianjin meeting richer nations should pledge deeper emissions cuts before developing nations are asked to do more.

“Developed countries should accept their historic responsibilities over climate change,” Sun said today.

The effects of climate change are visible in Hong Kong, the city’s environment secretary, Edward Yau, said at the forum. “There is more torrential rain in evidence.” Public consultation has started on plans to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, linked to global warming, he said.

Cancun Talks

The discussions in Tianjin were the last formal gathering before envoys meet in Cancun, Mexico, for Nov. 29 to Dec. 10 talks to help reach an agreement that the UN says is unlikely this year.

China has pledged to cut its output of carbon dioxide per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent in 2020 from 2005 levels. The nation, the world’s biggest polluter, is also discussing rules to implement a domestic carbon-trading market to reduce emissions and promote clean-energy industries, an official said last month.

Envoys at Cancun may agree on frameworks to help mainly developing countries cope with the effects of global warming and put systems in place to begin measuring and slowing emissions of greenhouse gases, a senior European Union official said last month.

The Tianjin talks made “some progress,” Sun said, without elaborating. He said he hoped the parties at Cancun would come to an agreement.

At the United Nations summit on climate change last, negotiators failed to reach a binding deal to set a framework for greenhouse-gas reduction when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Instead, they settled for a political accord calling for $100 billion a year by 2020 to fund climate efforts in poorer nations. They also vowed to stop global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than in pre-industrial times.

“Time is running short,” Martin Lees, a former senior climate change adviser to the Chinese government, told the forum. “We are approaching various tipping points. We have limited time to avoid irreversible environmental breakdowns.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Duce in Hong Kong at jduce1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Amit Prakash at aprakash1@bloomberg.net

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