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Moving on from COP17 and global crisis

15 December 2011
Moving on from COP17 and global crisis

By Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group.


The year of 2011 seems to have passed very swiftly. I feel that the Durban United Nations Conference ended only a short while after the introduction of China’s 12th Five Year Plan. Between these two events, my life was filled with countless trips, conferences, projects, reports, lectures, interviews, large assemblies and small meetings, a really non-stop busy 2011.

Although the Durban Conference results may not have been very satisfying, our efforts do indicate China’s resolution and action in this international process, despite the strong political resistances it faces. The contrast between the two is distinct and profound.

But why is this international process so difficult?

Climate change is a global challenge. In the past 20 years, the international community has enhanced their scientific understanding about climate change, from causes to consequences, form phenomena to trends, from technology solutions to policy incentive mechanisms, and from developed countries to developing countries.

In terms of energy reservation, emission reductions and green low carbon growth, many countries have gone through the exploring period and have now been attempting to make them mainstream. This greatly increased our confidence in tackling climate change. However, our efforts so far are still not enough to face the changes of climate change effectively.

As has been pointed out by scientists, should the increase in global temperature reach 2°C, the international community must reduce absolute emission reduction by 20-45% by1990 levels before 2020.

In other words, in the following 40 years, developed countries need to achieve almost zero emissions so as to leave some space for developing countries.

For historical reasons, the uncontrolled cumulative emission in the industrialization of developed countries is the precipitating cause of our problems today.

That is why in 1992, when UN’s Climate Change Framework Treaty was introduced, 'common but different responsibility' was accepted as a basic principle by the international community. This principle was then incorporated into the international conventions and the later Kyoto Protocol. For the international process to move forward, our main task is to ensure that developed countries will fulfill their promises of taking the lead in emission reduction and of helping developing countries to cope with climate change.

Now twenty years have passed, some developed countries have achieved their emission reduction commitments through various efforts. Many more countries however, have failed to honor their promised commitments.

Rather than diminish, global emission levels have actually increased.

This trend has now become increasingly complex thanks to the global financial crisis, and the following recession triggered by this turmoil. At the moment, job creation and economic growth are the most important political mission and responsibilities of every nation. Coping with climate change has been highly marginalized in major developed countries, and has been pushed to almost negligible levels.

Under the pressure of economic recovery, competition between countries is becoming increasingly server and sensitive, and trade protectionism is much more prominent. At this very point, emerging economies have been completely excluded, as some countries are 'jealous' of the development opportunities and space in these emerging economies.

This led to the many outraged scenes at COP17. As pointed out by Zhenhua Xie, deputy director of National Development and Reform Commission, who angrily responded to remarks from some developed countries: "Rather than fulfill their commitments, some developed countries simply kept asking emerging economies to assume more responsibilities! Is it fair?"

These “farces” however, did not mask the real actions and explorations of many countries and regions.

China has already become the world leader in the Clean Revolution: from national-level low carbon development strategies to local governments’ active responses; from technological innovations to financial strategies; from cities’ green transformations to enterprises’ low carbon transformations; from industries to architecture to transportation, and from officials to the public to students, this revolution is bound to have far-reaching influence.

This revolution will greatly ease the resources, energy and environmental constrains in China’s economic development. At the same time, China’s actions will inspire many developed countries and developing countries to adopt more proactive actions and to promote the global Clean Revolution together.

Looking ahead for 2012, my heart is filled with expectations. However complex and unpredictable the global process of climate change, I have full confidence in China. I am full of hope for China’s policies and solutions implemented at national level.

Best wishes to China’s green revolution in the Dragon year!

Read Changhua's perspective of China's position at COP17.

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Translated by Fang Zuo. 

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