Page last updated at 01:49 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 02:49 UK

UN chief praises climate summit

Bn Ki-Moon, right, and Danish PM Lars Loekke Rasmussen 22.9.09
Ban Ki-moon, right, praised world leaders at the summit

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says a one-day climate change summit in New York has given fresh impetus to efforts to tackle global warming.

He says the momentum has shifted in favour of reaching a deal at December's crucial climate meeting in Copenhagen.

Earlier, the summit heard that China will increase efforts to improve energy efficiency and cut its CO2 emissions.

The pledge prompted former-US vice-president and environmental activist Al Gore to praise China's leadership.

Chinese President Hu Jintao gave no details about the measures, which should mean emissions grow less quickly than the economy.

China is the world biggest polluter, according to some measurements.

The US, the world's other major emitter, said China's proposals were helpful but figures were needed.

Richard Black
No-one seriously expects developing countries to accept numerical cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions
Richard Black
Environment correspondent

About 100 leaders attended the talks, ahead of the Copenhagen summit which is due to approve a new treaty.

At the close of the meeting, Mr Ban said: "While the summit is not the guarantee that we will get the global agreement, we are certainly one step closer to that global goal today."

He praised world leaders for their desire to tackle climate change.

"Climate change is a defining challenge of our time, he said.

"Today's summit signals a determination of world leaders to address this challenge and reach a substantive deal in Copenhagen."

Figures requested

Negotiators for the Copenhagen summit are trying to agree on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol to limit carbon emissions.

The Chinese president said his country would curb its carbon emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product by a "notable margin" by 2020 from the 2005 level.

Hu Jintao: Developed nations need to do more

However, the proposal is unlikely to mean an overall reduction in emissions, as China's economy is expected to continue to grow rapidly.

A US official said that China's proposals were helpful but Beijing needed to provide figures.

"It depends on what the number is," US President Barack Obama's climate change envoy Todd Stern said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

But Mr Gore praised China's "impressive leadership".

"We've had... indications that in the event there is dramatic progress in this negotiation, that China will be prepared to do even more," he said.

BBC environment reporter Matt McGrath says that much of the debate about tackling global warming revolves around the idea of absolute cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide - but developing countries like India and China feel that this emphasis is unfair.

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Richer countries, meanwhile, have had the benefits of centuries of fossil fuel use, and are now demanding that growing nations stop using them with no obvious alternatives in place, he says.

Mr Hu also pledged to "vigorously develop" renewable and nuclear energy.

He restated China's position that developed nations needed to do more than developing nations to fight climate change because they were historically responsible for the problem.

"Developed countries should fulfil the task of emission reduction set in the Kyoto Protocol, continue to undertake substantial mid-term quantified emission reduction targets and support developing countries in countering climate change," he said.

In other speeches at the summit:

  • US President Obama acknowledged that the US had been slow to act, but promised a "new era" of promoting clean energy and reducing carbon pollution
  • The new Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, pledged to reduce emissions by 25% by 2020 compared to the 1990 level, calling it the Hatoyama Initiative
  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on leaders to meet again in mid-November ahead of the crucial Copenhagen conference

A man delivering bricks of coal on his tricycle in Beijing on 16 September, 2009

There is also concern about the US.

President Obama has already announced a target of returning to 1990 levels of greenhouse emissions by 2020, but critics say Washington is moving too slowly on legislation which does not go far enough.

China and the US each account for about 20% of the world's greenhouse gas pollution from coal, natural gas and oil.

The European Union is responsible for 14%, followed by Russia and India with 5% each.

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