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China Attempts to Water Down Language in International Report on Cutting Greenhouse Gases


Delegates to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting in Bangkok this week say China tried hard to tone down recommendations and targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. As VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Beijing, the Chinese government is worried that tighter controls may mean job losses.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Friday that steps need to be taken now to reduce emissions. But China - already the world's number-two emitter after the United States and heading for number one - is hoping it can take action later.

The scientists and experts in Bangkok agreed the world needs to cut annual emissions of carbon dioxide by up to 85 percent by the year 2050 in order to slow global warming.

China, along with India and other developing countries, argued that the target for emission cuts was too high.

Paul Harris is political science professor at the Lignan University in Hong Kong, and an expert on the politics of climate change. He says China hoped to avoid taking measures that could hurt its roaring economy.

"What it's trying to do is to delay the date at which China is required to undertake really substantial limitations in its own emissions," he said. " So, by trying to mitigate the wording, China is trying to reduce the threshold at which it might have to do something that would be painful for itself."

Chinese leaders argued that China is still a poor and developing country. However, Harris says that argument is becoming more difficult for Beijing to sustain, as the world watches the skyrocketing economy pull millions into the middle class.

"In China, there are now tens of millions living modern western lifestyles, much like Americans," Harris said. "And it is these people that China is increasingly going to have difficulty denying exist within Chinese borders. So, on the one hand, China wants everyone to think that it is a poor, developing country that ought not be required to do anything, but on the other hand, everyone sees China as rapidly developing."

Scientists predict that China will soon overtake the United States as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases.

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