BEIJING - China will spend more to research global warming but lacks the money and technology to significantly reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that are worsening the problem, a government official said yesterday.
China “lags behind Europe and the United States” in the technology needed to clean its coal, which accounts for 69 percent of its energy output, said Qin Dahe, chief of the China Meteorological Administration.
“It takes time to catch up,” said Mr. Qin, who served as one of China’s representatives to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that last week announced that global warming is likely caused by mankind and will continue for centuries.
Mr. Qin issued his comments, the first official Chinese response to the report, at a press conference yesterday as winter temperatures in China’s capital hit a 30-year high, state press and broadcast outlets said.
The China Daily newspaper said Beijing’s temperature hit 55 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, prompting an early spring, with frozen lakes melting and trees blooming.
China wants to reduce its dependence on coal but converting to cleaner energies on a mass scale would be prohibitively costly for China, which is still a developing economy.
The lack of technology to clean coal so it can burn without producing much pollution is a serious problem because China is already the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, and is expected to surpass the United States as the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter in the next decade.
Mr. Qin said the Chinese government had set a “very ambitious and arduous goal” of reducing carbon dioxide and other emissions by 4 percent a year over the next five years.
The government is “very serious about the commitment and has firmly demanded all regions to meet the emissions-reduction targets,” he said.
However, China has no binding international commitments to reduce its emissions and failed to meet similar targets set by the government five years ago.
A separate Chinese report released last month said climate change will harm China’s ecology and economy in the coming decades, possibly causing large drops in agricultural output.
In the latter half of this century, production of wheat, corn and rice in China will drop by as much as 37 percent, the report said.
It also said evaporation rates for some inland rivers would increase by 15 percent. China already faces a severe water shortage, especially in the northern part of the country.
A British environmental specialist said Monday that water shortages in China already were reaching “incredible” proportions, with Shanghai particularly vulnerable unless drastic action is taken quickly.
Justin Mundy, a government adviser on climate change, pointed to the low levels of aquifers in Shanghai as a prime example of the problems China faces. Shanghai will have to use desalinized water in the next 10 years, then build the infrastructure to import water from southwest China, he said.