Expert: Climate change not just an environmental issue



Climate change has enormous implications for human development and China is taking it very seriously, an expert from Beijing-based Tsinghua University said Saturday.


Speaking at the International Youth Summit on Energy and Climate Change, Chao Qingchen, deputy director-general of the Department of Science & Technology and Climate Change of the China Meteorological Administration, said climate change should not be viewed as a purely environmental issue.


Ms. Chao told "We must acknowledge the fact that climate change is not an environmental issue alone; it is a human issue, a development issue"


Climate change impacts all aspects of development; economic, social, cultural, health, infrastructure, energy, poverty reduction, and sustainability, she said. Leaving climate change to the department of the environment to tackle on its own is unrealistic, she added.


There have been an enormous number of foreign media reports on China's environmental problems, especially regarding air and water pollution, "all of which are true, to some extent", but "people who are not familiar with China's climate change agenda easily misunderstand China's position on climate change," she said.


Many people do not understand that China is tackling its environmental problems and trying hard to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Chao said.


Chao gave four examples of China's ambitious and comprehensive climate change agenda.


In the field of energy saving and energy efficiency, China's target is to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2010, said Chao.


"This is one of the most stringent energy efficiency targets in the world as far as I know," she said. "China will probably not quite meet the 20 percent target but it will come very close."


According to Premier Wen Jiabao's 2009 government work report, China's reduction of energy consumption per GDP in 2008 was 4.59 percent, bringing the total reduction over the past three years to 10.08 percent.


On renewable energy, China aims to increase production of primary energy from renewable sources from 5 percent in 2005 to 15 percent by 2020. "I think the country will meet this target. In China nuclear is considered renewable energy [...] nuclear, wind and solar, all of these are being heavily invested in in China," she told


Chao also said that China is in the midst of a five-year plan to reach 20 percent forest coverage by 2010, which "will again help reduce green house gas emissions".


Chao added that China should step up cooperation with other countries on fighting climate change.


China maintains that industrialized countries historically responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions should take the primary responsibility for reducing emissions.


"It doesn't mean that China as a developing nation will only concentrate on economic development," she explained.


She said the Chinese government follows the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" according to which developed countries should take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as providing financial and technical support to developing countries.


China will participate actively and extensively in international initiatives to combat climate change, said Chao.


She said the recent visit by US Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to Beijing was a positive sign that China and the US are contemplating a strategic partnership on clean energy.


"This would push China and the US to quickly start reducing green house gas emissions by cooperating substantially on clean energy, as part of a bilateral strategic dialogue," she told


The two countries are expected to pledge to conduct joint research on the next generation of clean energy technology. Chao said the Chinese side is very interested in this possibility. "China believes that it should be a partner in the development of clean energy," she said. 

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