UN climate chief says China poised to take lead

(AP) – China’s ambition to grow quickly but cleanly soon may vault it to “front-runner” status – far ahead of the United States – in taking on global warming, the U.N. climate chief said Monday.

China could steal the show by unveiling new plans Tuesday at a U.N. climate summit of 100 world leaders. India has also signaled that it wants to be an “active player” on climate change.

The development would mark a dramatic turnabout. The United States, under former President George W. Bush’s administration, long cited inaction by China and India as the reason for rejecting mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases.

Tuesday’s meeting is intended to rally momentum for crafting a new global climate pact at Copenhagen, Denmark, in December. Bush rejected the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for cutting global emissions of warming gases based on its impact on the U.S. economy and exclusion of major developing nations like China and India, both major polluters.

Su Wei, director of China’s climate change department, pledged a “pro-active” approach to make Copenhagen a success.

“China takes the threat of climate change very seriously and fully recognizes the urgency to take actions,” he said, flanked by top climate negotiators from the U.S., India and Denmark at a news conference on Monday. “China will continue to play certainly an active and constructive role.”

China and the U.S. together account for about 40 percent of all the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other industrial warming gases.

At Tuesday’s summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao is expected to lay out new plans that focus on extending China’s energy-saving programs rather than committing to a cap on its greenhouse gases, at least not until the fast-growing nation reaches a higher level of development.

Experts say they expect as a first step that China will announce targets for reducing the “intensity” of its carbon pollution – not shrinking emissions overall, but reducing the carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic growth.

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