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China ratifies global warming treaty

Zhu has stressed the need for environmental sustainability
Zhu has stressed the need for environmental sustainability  

Staff and wire reports

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- China, the world's second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, has announced it has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, bringing the environmental treaty one step closer to implementation.

However, because China is regarded as a developing nation, it is not required to curb emissions. Instead, it would be eligible to earn credits by setting up emission-reducing projects and other so called clean development mechanisms.

"China has ... completed the domestic procedure for the approval of the Kyoto Protocol with a view to taking an active part in multilateral environmental co-operation," Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji told the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development in the South African capital Johannesburg on Tuesday. (Summit latest)

China, which spews an estimated 11 percent of global carbon emissions into the atmosphere, was widely expected to ratify the agreement, which requires industrialized nations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2012.

Yet Kyoto may be extended to China in the future and force the communist nation to meet emission targets.

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Meanwhile, Australia appears to be softening its opposition to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol in the face of its increasing isolation on the issue. (Australia isolated over Kyoto)

Russia is also expected to ratify the agreement soon -- a move that would virtually ensure the 1997 treaty is introduced, despite its rejection by the biggest air polluter, the United States. (Russia close to Kyoto signing)

Beijing slammed the Bush administration for pulling out of Kyoto in March last year, with Washington saying that the treaty would harm the U.S. economy.

Development-hungry nation

China, Asia's fastest growing economy, has promulgated many environmental protection measures and laws despite skepticism the development-hungry nation is not ready to embrace such moves.

Sustainable development was moved to the top of Beijing's agenda after it announced its first five-year "green" plan in March, 2001.

Zhu has stressed the need to clean the air, polluted rivers, lakes and water catchments as well as combat a worsening desertification problem.

Almost $8 billion has been earmarked for projects including reforestation, pollution control and water conservation for the five years up to 2005.

Analysts say that China faces an uphill battle against greenhouse gas emissions, with private transport viewed as its major environmental obstacle.

Already, with the economy soaring, cars clog up roads in many cities. What is needed urgently, analysts say, is for the government to promote sustainable transportation and public transport instead of private car development.

Unless that happens, they say China will become the world's number one air polluter within a few years.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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