There are signs that China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is "warming" up to the idea of seriously taking on climate change, according to a report by the Associated Press. It seems that Chinese negotiators at the international climate talks in Poznan, Poland are softening their rhetoric, and indicating more willingness to discuss compromise and consider real reforms.
Although the Chinese have still not agreed to specific targets, their refreshed willingness to discuss options is seen by some observers as a significant change from past years, which were largely a standoff between developing and developed nations. Not surprisingly, the Asian giant stresses that it is still committed to extending economic progress to all its citizens, and that efforts to address global warming will have to fit into development goals.
China is also asking the richest countries to commit to donating 1% of their gross domestic product to help poor countries fight global warming.
China gets 70% of its power from coal plants, many of them with only minimal pollution controls, and plans to build more than 550 new coal-fired power stations. The country accounted for two-thirds of the global increase in carbon emissions in 2007. Yet, the Chinese still emit about one-fourth as much carbon per person as the average American.
It's true China has been rapidly deploying solar and wind power, but not at a scale near big enough to fuel the nation's rapid growth. China has also worked to boost energy conservation, though again results have been outpaced by expansion.
Perhaps the 800-pound gorilla at Poznan is the fact that the Bush administration is in its final days. W and Co. have been no help in building international consensus for action on global warming, and the fact that President-elect Barack Obama offers promise of a different tack may be partly behind China's change.
Of course, it also might have something to do with China's epically polluted skies, rising sea levels and disappearing winters.
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