At the recently concluded UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, China once again showed its commitment to combating global warming. The reason for China's eagerness to address climate change is not that it wants to take the moral high ground, nor that it has yielded to international pressure. It is keen on reversing the alarming trend mainly because of its self-motivation to switch to a more sustainable model of growth, as well as its sincere wish to create a better environment for the country's future generations.
China's explosive growth in the past three decades has caused daunting environmental problems, some of which have even sparked protests and social tensions. The more than 656 million rural residents are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters associated with climate change. There has been widespread concern in China over the discharge of pollutants such as greenhouse gases. It is imperative that the Chinese Government give prominence to environmental protection and emission reduction.
From 2006 to 2010, China's energy consumption per unit of the GDP dropped nearly 20 percent, an equivalent of cutting 1.46 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. It plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of the GDP another 17 percent by 2015. By 2020, its carbon intensity will hopefully be reduced 40-45 percent from the 2005 level.
In a sense, the struggle to cope with climate change is part of a larger battle to transform China's economic growth model in the quest for stronger and more balanced development. The country views emission reduction as an opportunity to upgrade its industrial structure and spur technological innovation, to which China will remain committed to accomplish in the years ahead.
Climate change transcends national boundaries and calls for a global response. Industrialized countries are expected to help developing countries through technology transfers and financial assistance. They are duty-bound to do so because they have consumed a high share of the world's resources and released huge quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution began 250 years ago. They should live up to their responsibilities rather than shifting the blame to emerging economies. Narrow-minded wrangling at the Doha conference was not conducive to forging a global synergy to deal with climate change at a time when the clock is ticking.
When Western countries underwent rapid industrialization, their emissions went unchecked. Bitter lessons learned from their history have inspired emerging economies like China to pursue drastic emission cuts on a voluntary basis. But there is no justification for the demands that they take on binding targets, an unfair obligation that will put a strain on their efforts to seek further development and improve their people's livelihoods. The principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" should continue to serve as a cornerstone of the international climate campaign.