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China Promises to Fight Climate Change, Rejects Emission Caps

The Chinese government has vowed to control its greenhouse gas emissions but rejected mandatory limits on emissions in a newly released policy on climate change. A Chinese official in charge of planning says economic growth is still the number one priority and industrial nations, which share the most blame for global warming, should be more understanding and supportive of developing countries. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

The head of China's National Development and Reform Commission, Ma Kai, revealed China's plan to fight climate change to reporters in Beijing Monday.

The rather vague document provides no new reduction goals, but says the government will do more to encourage energy efficiency, clean power development, and expand forests to meet the already announced target to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2010.

China's massive energy needs to feed its fast-growing economy has made reaching that goal a struggle. Last year China failed to meet its energy and pollution reduction targets.

Despite that failure, Ma said China would continue to work in that direction. But, he rejected emission caps, saying it was not fair for industrialized nations to ask developing countries to commit to mandatory reductions, which he said would harm their development.

"The most important task now is of course to develop economically and reduce poverty," said Ma. "For this reason, in responding to climate change the international community ought to fully think about developing countries' rights and space to develop."

China is expected to overtake the United States as the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide gas as early as this year and has been under increasing international pressure to reduce emissions.

Ma said developing countries' per capita gas emissions were low compared to those of developed nations.

He said the vast majority of emissions historically came from industrialized nations so they should bear the most responsibility and provide financial and technical support to developing countries.

His comments came ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's attendance as a guest at a summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Germany Friday, where global warming is expected to be a hot topic.