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China draws up wish list ahead of climate talks

Chinese government wants developed economies to commit one per cent of GDP to fund roll out of low carbon technologies

Battlelines are being drawn ahead of the UN's next round of climate change talks in Poznan, Poland, next month after China yesterday announced it would push for a new international mechanism to accelerate the transfer of clean technologies to developing nations.

Unveiling its plan ahead of separate US-backed climate change talks scheduled for next week, the Chinese government said that developed economies should be forced to commit one per cent of their GDP each year to help developing nations roll out low carbon technologies and adapt to the impact of global warming.

Speaking at a press conference, Gao Guangsheng, the chief of the climate change office at China's the National Development and Reform Commission, said that current efforts to accelerate technology transfer such as the World Bank's plans for two climate change funds worth a combined $6bn amounted to virtually nothing.

"Developing countries should take action, but a prerequisite for this action is that developed countries provide funds and transfer technology," he said. " Developed countries' funding to support developing countries response to climate change should reach one per cent of the developed countries' GDP."

Western governments have repeatedly committed to help support the roll out of low carbon technologies in poorer nations and only last week, European MPs voted in favour of a plan that designed to ensure climate change is taken into account in all EU polices relating to developing nations such as trade, agriculture and aid.

However, fears over a loss of competitiveness to emerging economies such as India and China and the dilution of intellectual property have hampered such efforts.

Guangsheng said that China's new plan would help to address these concerns by offering stronger intellectual property protection for the low carbon technologies involved in such initiatives.

The new plan is being interpreted as a signal that China is preparing to take a more central role in the coming rounds of climate change talks that are scheduled to culminate in the UN's Copenhagen conference in December next year.

Meanwhile, a separate row appears to be brewing between Europe and Australia, following the publication late last month of a major Australian government commissioned report that suggests negotiators may have to accept less demanding emission reduction targets or risk an international climate change deal falling through.

The report from economist Ross Garnaut warns that carbon goals such as those to be adopted by the EU are based on outdated emissions figures, and that far deeper cuts than planned will be required to reach the EU's proposed goal of limiting temperature rises to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

It argues that while the UN's official worst-case-scenario estimate predicts global greenhouse emissions will rise by 2.5 per cent a year up to 2030 they have actually risen by three per cent a year since 2000, a rate that is likely to continue for at least another 20 years.

Based on these projections, Garnaut claims that developed economies will have to cut emissions by five per cent a year over the next decade to stabilise atmospheric concentrations at the 450 parts per million level that scientisist believe will deliver a global rise in temperatures of two degrees.

The report argues that demanding such deep cuts in emissions is likely to force some countries to turn their backs on the UN climate talks and that negotiators should consider adopting a less ambitious goal.

"The awful arithmetic means that exclusively focusing on a 450ppm outcome, at this moment, could end up providing another reason for not reaching an international agreement to reduce emissions," the report claims. "In the meantime, the cost of excessive focus on an unlikely goal could consign to history any opportunity to lock in an agreement for stabilising at 550ppm, a more modest, but still difficult, international outcome. An effective agreement around 550ppm would be vastly superior to continuation of business as usual."

However, Europe looks set to resist the proposals, arguing that aiming for anything greater than a two degree rise in temperatures risks dangerous levels of irreversible climate change where so-called "feed back loops" such as the release of methane from melting permafrost results in runaway global warming.

A spokeswoman for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change said the government would resist any attempt to water down the proposed two degree target.

"While the Garnaut review agrees that Australia should support the objective of reaching a global deal consistent with a two degree limit, it states that the chances of doing so are not great," she said. "The UK believes firmly the world can and should be making every possible effort to limit temperature rise to two degrees and therefore avoid dangerous climate change."

Her comments were echoed by the German government, a spokesman for which told The Australian newspaper would oppose the 550ppm target proposed by Garnaut.

"The German government considers it necessary and feasible to limit global warming to two degrees," he said. "This implies that we need to stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gases at about 450ppm equivalent, with developed countries collectively reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels."

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