This year marks the fifth anniversary since China ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. Almost 10 years ago, in 1997, the first draft of the global warming pact was completed by 149 state and regional representatives at the Third Plenary Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Japan. All parties to the convention, the first of its kind in history, agreed to curb the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in a legal framework so as to slow the rate of global warming. The Protocol gives industrialized nations specific emission reduction targets for GHG, of which carbon dioxide occupies a major proportion, in order for these parties to reduce their GHG emissions to 5.2 percent below the level of 1990, during the period 2008-12.
China joined the UNFCCC in 1992, and ratified the treaty one year later. On May 29, 1998, China signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, and in 2002, then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji officially announced China's endorsement of the Protocol. Despite the principle of "common but differential liability," China was not given a fixed volume of reduction for GHG as a developing nation. However, its joining the Kyoto Protocol has greatly impacted its transformation of future development mode.
China is a global economic engine thanks to its excellent economic growth over the past few decades. The side effects of this high-speed development, however, have been increasingly obvious. Major issues concerning population, resources, and environment are posing mounting pressures on the government. Compared with other world economies, China needs a lot more raw materials and energy resources in the process toward industrialization, not only to feed its huge population, but also to maintain the strong momentum of growth.
Currently, more than 70 percent of China's energy comes from the burning of coal, resulting in much higher level of GHG emission. During 1990 and 2001, the net increase in China's carbon dioxide emissions stood at 823 million tons, accounting for 27 percent of the world's total increment. China is expected to surpass the United States and become the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide by 2009. Emissions of other exhaust gases are also challenging China because of its unstoppable development.
In the next 20-50 years, the problems involving China's economic boom and subsequent environmental woes will continue to emerge like never before. Out of consideration for ecological protection and the survival of the world, China is committed to finding a balance between further industrialization and the reduction of GHG emissions.
China will keep its promise to the Kyoto Protocol by taking a path of reduced pollution, which is energy-saving and conserves resources. In a bid to shift its investment-driven growth pattern to an environment-friendly one, more severe penalties and effective measures will be carried out to punish violators and encourage the use of clean energy.
The Scientific Outlook on Development was already incorporated into the Constitution of the Communist Party of China during the Party's 17th National Congress last month. Based on this principle, China endeavors to achieve a harmonious development between man and nature. And the Chinese Government will play its part in maintaining a green and healthy living environment for the whole world by keeping in line with its international commitments.