China must combat climate change: UN chief

China must combat climate change: UN chief

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

"I wanted to highlight the special responsibility of countries like China to lead the global fight against climate change," he told UN correspondents.

China is the world's fastest-growing economy and its leading emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG). Coal, the primary source of main GHG carbon dioxide, accounts for 70 percent of China's energy consumption.

The tour involved launching a programme of energy saving lighting that could cut down China's energy consumption by eight percent. Ban praised this effort, and returned with assurances of collaboration at the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen.

"I was pleased that President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao assured me that China wants to seal a deal in Copenhagen in December and that China will play an active and constructive role in the negotiations to achieve this end," he said.

The Copenhagen conference is expected to strengthen the 1997 Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing GHG emissions, after the first term of the protocol ends in 2012. The conference will be preceded by a summit in September at the UN headquarters that is expected to draw around 100 heads of state/government. This meeting will give leaders the opportunity to review key political issues before the grand finale in the Danish capital.

The UN chief also stressed the need to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations in adapting to climate change. "In Mongolia climate change is a clear and present danger," he said. "Its culture and economy are in danger of being swallowed by sand."

Three-quarters of the country's grasslands are threatened by desertification and extreme weather events are increasing in frequency.

Still, its people are making significant attempts to adapt by changing land management practices and using solar power, according to Ban who also visited the central Asian nation during his trip. "Climate Change is not abstract concept," he said. "It is harsh reality that is changing the way we live."

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