Sarkozy urges China to act on climate change

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BEIJING, Nov 27 (Reuters) French President Nicolas Sarkozy challenged China today to play its part in averting climate catastrophe, winding up a state visit in which he repeatedly urged Beijing to shoulder its responsibilities as a global power.

Sarkozy became the latest Western leader to urge Beijing to spell out goals for limiting emissions growth blamed for global warming, something developing nations are not yet obliged to do.

''I ask China to join us in a new global contract, an ecological and economic New Deal,'' he said in a speech to students at Beijing's Tsinghua University.

He appealed to China's authorities to exert ''immediate, profound and sustainable'' influence on the way the world's fourth-largest economy produces goods and consumes energy.

Rapidly growing China is emerging as the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from factories, farms and vehicles blamed for climate change.

Next week in Bali, the United Nations launches what it hopes will be two years of talks to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, whose initial phase ends in 2012.

The United States, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has refused to ratify the protocol, which did not impose emissions reduction targets on developing countries.

SUCCESSOR DEAL China says negotiations for a successor deal should focus on developed countries' responsibilities. A commentary in state media said that from the Industrial Revolution until the 1950s, the developed world was responsible for 95 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and accounted for 77 per cent of the world's total from 1950 to 2000.

Sarkozy said the problem needed a global effort.

''If we don't fix targets we won't succeed in avoiding catastrophe,'' Sarkozy said. ''We can't have one response for Europe and one for Asia, one for the North and one for the South.

''We must absolutely find a way as industrialised, emerging and developing countries of working together to divide greenhouse emissions in half by 2050,'' he said, referring to a target adopted by the European Union.

It was in the the interests of China to protect the health of its people, Sarkozy said.

''China can and must play its full part.'' Brandishing the results of a major consultation exercise on the environment launched in France after his election in May, Sarkozy said his country was ready to contribute a greater proportion of cuts than any contributions required from China.

But Europe would not indefinitely allow its producers to be penalised for the cost of cleaning up the environment without a mechanism to compensate for the carbon content of goods imported from cheaper production zones without similar standards.

Sarkozy's informal but frank remarks echoed earlier appeals to China to shoulder the responsibilities which go with its growing force in global politics, which marked the main theme of his first state visit to Asia since he was elected president.

His visit overlapped with the arrival of European monetary officials, who will follow talks today with an EU-China summit tomorrow as Europe cranks up pressure on Beijing to correct what it sees as the unfair weakness if its yuan currency.

The French leader publicly told Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday China should act on the environment and currencies.

But Premier Wen Jiabao reaffirmed Beijing's gradualist approach to the flexibility of its currency.

Sarkozy summarised the message of his visit in answer to students' questions.

''Don't be afraid of the world. The world is not afraid of you. But do assume your responsibilities,'' he said.

Sarkozy was due to visit Beijing's preparations for the 2008 Olympics before a whirlwind visit to Shanghai later today.

REUTERS SZ BST1057

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