China to reject binding emissions caps, Europe says

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BEIJING, Nov 7 (Reuters) China will not accept binding emissions caps in any pact to tackle global warming, a European Parliament team said today, but added the bigger obstacle was those countries who might refuse to join the fight at all.

The delegation was in China for talks ahead of a meeting of world governments in Bali next month that will begin negotiations on mapping out a plan to fight global warming to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.

''Unlike the European Parliament or the European Union, the Chinese believe that it will not be possible in the agreement which follows the Kyoto Protocol for China to accept any binding obligations,'' Guido Sacconi, chairman of the European Parliament's climate change committee, told a news conference.

China's emissions of carbon dioxide are expected to overtake the United States -- the world's leading emitter of the greenhouse gas -- by 2008, putting it in the spotlight of global climate change talks.

But it rejects concrete caps on its emissions, saying development must be its priority and that rich countries responsible for most of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere should do more to cut their output and transfer clean technology to poorer nations.

There was broad agreement between Europe and China on the importance of fighting climate change, delegation members said, adding that at least Beijing was willing to engage.

''The problem is rather that of other superpowers -- other areas of the world -- who may not wish to join in and follow the same course,'' Sacconi said.

Neither the United States nor Australia are part of Kyoto, which obliges 36 industrial nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Washington and Canberra say the pact is too expensive and unfair because it excludes big developing nations such as China from binding emissions cuts.

The European delegation said China's rejection of binding caps did not rule out other concrete steps that it could take.

''There was some indication that would seem to me to open the possibility that ... China may not accept binding targets but that China itself would make certain commitments,'' said Barbara de Brun, a delegation member from Ireland.

She said it was not clear what those actions would be, but they could entail voluntary -- though not binding -- steps on the part of Beijing to reduce emissions.

''I would like, from the European point of view, not to rule out the possibility that China itself could take steps that would have as their primary purpose the reduction of emissions,'' de Brun said.

''That should certainly be possible.'' The delegation said Beijing was elevating the importance of global warming because of what they described as the ''devastating impact'' climate change was already having in China.

''We've seen this in agriculture, with flooding and deforestation, and we've also seen it in the high level of pollution in the cities,'' said Italian member Vincenzo Lavarra.

''We believe this will lead China to undertake a genuine commitment to fighting against climate change.'' REUTERS PD SSC1500

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