- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Countries buying Chinese goods should be held responsible for the heat-trapping gases released during manufacturing in China, one of its top officials said Monday.

The argument could place an even greater burden on the U.S. for reducing pollution blamed for global warming.

Li Gao, China’s chief climate negotiator, said that any fair international agreement to curb the gases blamed for global warming would not require China to reduce emissions caused by goods manufactured there to meet demand elsewhere.

China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But 15 to 25 percent of its emissions are generated by manufacturing goods for export, Li said.

“As one of the developing countries, we are at the low end of the production line for the global economy. We produce products and these products are consumed by other countries. … This share of emissions should be taken by the consumers, but not the producers,” Li said during a briefing at the Capitol’s visitor center.

Li directs the climate change department at the National Development and Reform Commission and was in Washington, along with negotiators from other countries, to meet with Obama administration officials. President Barack Obama has indicated a willingness to enter into a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

But China’s stance could be one of the stumbling blocks facing the U.S., China’s largest trading partner, when negotiations to broker a new international treaty begin in Copenhagen in December. Li said China was not alone in thinking that emissions generated by the production of exports should be dealt with by importing countries.

Li also criticized proposals by the U.S. to place carbon tariffs on goods imported from countries that do not limit the gases blamed for global warming. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering it as they draft legislation to control global warming pollution to ensure that U.S. goods can compete with cheaper imports from countries without regulation.

“If developed countries set a barrier in the name of climate change for trade, I think it is a disaster,” Li said.

Neither China nor the U.S. ratified the last agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

China has long insisted that developed nations bear the main responsibility for cutting emissions. As president, George W. Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol because he said developing nations like India and China should not be exempt.

Negotiators from other governments at the Monday briefing, including the European Union and Japan, said that they would not support China’s proposal to unload a portion of its greenhouse gas emissions on importers.

“I think the issue here is we take full responsibility and we … regulate all the emissions that come from our territory,” said Artur Runge-Metzger, who heads the climate change strategy and international negotiations unit at the European Commission. Runge-Metzger said that if China’s approach were adopted, it would require allowing other countries to have jurisdiction and legislative powers to control emissions outside their borders.

Li was joined by Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua of the National Development and Reform Commission in his visit to Washington.

Xie met with U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern at the State Department on Monday. The talks in Copenhagen were among the topics discussed, said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

“There’s a willingness, particularly on the Chinese side, to really engage on the subject of climate change, and we welcome that,” Wood said.

___

Associated Press writer Foster Klug contributed to this report.

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