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Last Updated: Monday, 4 June 2007, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
China unveils climate change plan
Steel plant at Anshan in northeast China's Liaoning province
China stresses that economic progress must come first
China has unveiled its first national plan for climate change, saying it is intent on tackling the problem but not at the expense of economic development.

The 62-page report reiterated China's aim to reduce energy use by a fifth before 2010 and increase the amount of renewable energy it produces.

But it also repeated Beijing's view that responsibility for climate change rests with rich westernised countries.

The report comes ahead of a G8 meeting that will focus on global warming.

Germany, which is hosting the meeting of industrialised nations, is calling for a new UN protocol on climate change to replace the Kyoto pact when it expires in 2012.

China's role in the debate is crucial, as many analysts believe it could overtake the US this year as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

'Trailblazer'

China's new national plan on climate change offered few new targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but outlined how it intended to meet the goals it has already set, analysts say.

This includes the use of more wind, nuclear and hydro power as well as making coal-fired plants more efficient, the document outlined.

CHINA'S EMISSIONS
Between 1994 and 2004, China's greenhouse gas emissions grew by 4% a year
China currently depends on coal to meet two-thirds of its energy needs
It hopes to raise its use of renewable energy from 7% to 10% by 2010
China may overtake the US as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases by the end of this year

But it also stressed that the country's first priority remained "sustainable development and poverty eradication".

"China is a developing country. Although we do not have the obligation to cut emissions, it does not mean we do not want to shoulder our share of responsibilities," Ma Kai, chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission, said.

"We must reconcile the need for development with the need for environmental protection," he said, adding that China wanted to "blaze a new path to industrialisation".

He said rich countries were responsible for most of the greenhouse gases produced over the past century, and had an "unshirkable responsibility" to do more to tackle the problem.

"The international community should respect the developing countries' right to develop," he added.

The plan is a strong declaration of intentions, but so far China has missed almost every environmental target it has set itself, the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Shanghai says.

Political debate

Climate change is expected to be fiercely debated when China's President Hu Jintao and other industrialised leaders meet in Germany for the G8 on Wednesday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged them to agree firm targets for cutting polluting emissions.

President Hu Jintao
President Hu will attend the G8 summit this week

In a BBC interview, he said it was now up to the richest countries to show leadership on the issue.

"It will be tragic if we don't take any action," he said. "My main message is that to galvanise this political will at the leaders level so that we can take necessary action."

The UN secretary-general has made tackling climate change one of his top priorities, and called for a meeting of world leaders on the subject in September.

He wants the UN to be in the lead when it comes to agreeing what should replace the Kyoto Protocol, the current agreement curbing greenhouse gases, when it expires in 2012.

US President George W Bush - whose country is the only industrialised nation apart from Australia not to ratify the protocol - has proposed uniting a group of big emitters who would set non-binding targets by the end of next year.

But some analysts say this has been interpreted as a way of undercutting other initiatives - for example by the G8 or United Nations.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The Chinese reaction to plans to cut energy use





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