China and global climate change : proceedings of the conference held at Lingnan University, Hong Kong, 18-19 June 2009
Paul G. HARRIS
The conference on China and Global Climate Change was held at Lingnan University, Hong Kong, from 18-19 June 2009. About 100 scholars from around the world participated in the conference. They served in various capacities, including as presenters, researchers, paper writers and/or discussants. The conference was jointly organized and sponsored by Lingnan University's Centre for Asian Pacific Studies (CAPS) and its Environmental Studies Programme (ESP). The objective of the conference was to examine the problem of how to reconcile China's growing greenhouse gas emissions with the Chinese government's unwillingness (so far) to join binding international commitments to reduce those emissions.
Since the start of international negotiations on climate change in the 1980s, the Chinese government has refused to be bound by commitments to limit its pollution of the atmosphere. This refusal is based on the historical responsibility of the world's wealthy countries for past emissions and China's status as a developing country. The then President Hu Jintao reaffirmed that China would not commit to mandatory emissions-reduction targets before the world's wealthy countries take the lead in addressing global climate change. He has also called on affluent countries to pay for emissions limitations in China and other developing countries.
Alongside these Chinese concerns about justice and historical responsibility is the new reality that China has become the largest national source of pollution causing climate change. Without China's involvement, notably limitations in its future greenhouse gas emissions, international efforts to mitigate global warming substantially are unlikely to succeed. This comes against the backdrop of increasing concerns among atmospheric scientists that global warming is happening more quickly than predicted, that climate change will be more severe than anticipated, and that the poorest countries and people of the world will experience monumental suffering in coming decades as a consequence.
Thus the conference aimed to assess how China's longstanding concerns about international fairness and justice can be squared against the pressing need for an effective international regime that limits greenhouse gas emissions – including those from China.
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