China appears committed to stronger steps to contain swelling greenhouse gas emissions, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said after meetings in Beijing, urging practical hopes of climate treaty negotiations.
Blair said on Thursday that his talks with Premier Wen Jiabao indicated that climate change had moved closer to the heart of Chinese policy-setting.
China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases from human activity, is starting to explore goals for its next five-year development plan starting from 2011. Blair said China was likely to adopt stronger measures to rein in emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuel.
I think the single most important thing is to understand that in its development plans -- in other words, how the Chinese economy grows over the coming years -- low-carbon growth is at the heart of those plans, Blair told a news conference.
The former British leader's comments add to recent signs that Beijing wants to seize some initiative in negotiations for a new global climate change treaty.
With its fast-rising greenhouse gas emissions, China's stance will be crucial in efforts to create a successor to the current Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.
Western nations have pressed Beijing to set specific goals on slowing emissions growth in coming years, leading to early cuts in absolute volumes as part of a new pact that governments hope to seal in Copenhagen by the end of 2009.
But Beijing says rich countries must lead the way with big emissions cuts, since they are responsible for most of the greenhouse gases from human activity that have accumulated in the atmosphere, retaining rising amounts of solar radiation.
China has already set a domestic goal of cutting energy intensity by 20 percent over the five years to 2010.
Some Chinese experts have said the nation should also set goals for improving carbon intensity, cutting the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to create each unit of economic value.
A recent study by some of the nation's top climate change policy advisers also said China should set targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions so they peak around 2030, a departure from Beijing's reluctance to discuss specific peaks and goals.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills)