China's Odd Climate-change Remark

NEW DELHI, Jan. 26 (UPI) — China’s top climate-change negotiator said he was keeping an open mind on whether global warming was man-made or the result of natural cycles.

Speaking in New Delhi following the conclusion Sunday of a two-day meeting of ministers from the BASIC group of the most powerful emerging economies — China, India, Brazil and South Africa — Xie Zhenhua said climate change was a “solid fact.” But, he said, more and better scientific research was needed to determine the causes.

India and South Africa’s environment ministers seemed to be taken by surprise by Xie’s comments made during a news briefing, the Telegraph reports. The Indian delegate to the BASIC meeting, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, said he did not believe his Chinese counterpart had meant what he said, while South Africa’s minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, said she could not “second guess” what Xie had meant by his comments.

Xie’s remarks appeared to undermine the BASIC group’s main argument, that Western developed countries should foot the bill for poor countries to switch to low-carbon models because their emissions are responsible for climate change.

The BASIC group played a key role in drawing up the Copenhagen Accord in December’s climate-change talks.

In a joint statement following the New Delhi meeting, the BASIC group noted the accord represents a high-level political understanding among the participants on some of the disputed issues of climate-change negotiations.

The BASIC group said they would disclose the voluntary steps the countries would take to help reduce global warming by the Jan. 31 deadline set during the Copenhagen negotiations.

During the briefing, Ramesh said the value of the Copenhagen Accord lies not as a standalone document, “but as an input into the two-track negotiating process” under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will culminate in Mexico City in December 2010.

The group called for Denmark, chair of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations, to hold at least five meetings of the working groups before the Mexico conference.

Rich nations should ensure the early distribution of $10 billion pledged for 2010 at Copenhagen to address climate change in the least developed nations and island states, noted the statement.

“That is the basic minimum,” Ramesh said.

“If $10 billion as promised in the Copenhagen accord does not flow to Africa, to small island states and to the LDCs [least developed countries] we believe that frankly the developed countries are not serious,” he said. “That is the first milestone that has to be achieved. You have to put money on the table, you have to identify the projects and money has to start flowing.”

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