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China Seeks Climate Compromise on ‘Disastrous’ Kyoto Debate

China said it’s prepared to compromise in a debate between developing countries and Japan that could be “disastrous” for the outcome of United Nations climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

China’s lead climate negotiator Su Wei said he’s prepared to drop a demand that developed countries spell out this year the level of greenhouse gas emissions cuts they would make under a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, he’s willing to accept assurances the treaty will continue.

“In the spirit of compromise we would consider any options that would keep open the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol,” Su said today in an interview in the Mexican resort. “Not the numbers, but a clear confirmation to have a second commitment period. We don’t just want signals. We’ve been talking about signals since 2005. We need a confirmation in crystal terms.”

The comments suggest a way to break an impasse between rich and poor nations over how to limit the gases blamed for global warming once the restrictions outlined in the 1997 Kyoto treaty expire in 2012. Su said that while countries have waited “too long” for new numerical goals, “we can have more time to negotiate on those specific targets.”

Earlier this week, Japan’s delegates said they won’t accept a second commitment period under Kyoto because it sets no limits for the U.S. and China, the biggest emitters. That prompted envoys from Bolivia and Venezuela to say they’ll reject any package of decisions that omits new targets for the 37 nations bound by the pact.

$100 Billion Fund

The conflict threatens to stall advances made on tackling deforestation, setting up a $100 billion fund to channel climate aid to developing nations and on measuring and verifying emissions cuts. Su said China is open to a solution that ensures a continuation of the Kyoto pact, leaving decisions on the precise level of cuts for after the Cancun meeting.

Japan argues that the Kyoto Protocol is no longer up to the task of fighting climate change, because it covers less than 30 percent of global emissions. Canada and Russia are also opposed to continuing Kyoto, Christiana Figueres, the UN diplomat who leads the talks, said yesterday.

“That damages the atmosphere and damages the process to reach a balanced outcome in Cancun,” Su said. “It’s very detrimental, even disastrous for the whole climate regime.”

Kyoto Dispute

Su said agreeing to the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol is one element of a deal to be reached in Cancun. The other elements include spelling out actions to be taken by the U.S., the only developed nation not to ratify Kyoto and the climate aid fund, which would help developing nations cut emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Measures to protect forests, the establishment of a mechanism to develop and transfer low-carbon technology such as wind turbines and solar panels to developing nations, and the establishment of an “adaptation committee,” would complete the deal, he said. In all areas, more detailed work can be conducted after Cancun, he said.

“It’s a matter of balance,” Su said. “I don’t think any country will stand in the way of a balanced outcome.”

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