TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Nov08/02)
11 November 2008
Third World Network

Climate: Financial crisis no excuse to avoid climate action, says China
Published in SUNS #6587 dated 11 November 2008

Beijing, 8 Nov (Martin Khor) -- The financial crisis should not be a reason for countries to avoid taking action on climate change but can be used instead to enhance efforts to address the climate problem, said a leading Chinese government official after the conclusion of an international workshop on climate change technology transfer.

"There should be no competition between climate change and the financial crisis," said Mr. Xie Zhenhua, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, which is China's top economic policy-making agency.

"The financial crisis is short term, whereas climate change is a serious concern that stretches far into the future," said Xie at a press conference on 8 November afternoon. "Such long term and short term concerns should not compete, but we should instead take the opportunity of the crisis to alter our industrial structure."

The media briefing was held after the closing of the Beijing high-level Conference on climate change: technology development and technology transfer, organised by the Chinese government and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

Xie added that there are many measures that can be taken to address the financial crisis. "If we can enhance our investments and efforts to address climate change, it will also address the financial crisis."

Citing what the Chinese premier Mr. Wen Jiabao had said about China's intention to increase investments in infrastructure to counter the financial crisis, Xie said that China would still focus on investments in energy conservation and renewable energy and other climate-related measures. "We hope other countries will also take similar actions."

Xie said China's target was to improve energy efficiency by 20% and for this, an investment of 1 trillion RMB [USD1= 6.8 RMB] was needed. China also had a target to increase the use of renewable energy to 10% of the total in 2010 and for this, 2 trillion RMB of investment was required.

"We are willing to invest in efforts and we are getting benefits already," he said. The measures in 2006-7 had cut carbon dioxide emission by 830 million tonnes, he said. He added that this was the result of energy-saving measures equivalent to saving on the use of 147 million tonnes of coal and a switch to using renewable energy that was equivalent to saving on the use of 200 million tonnes of coal.

United Nations Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Sha Zukang, told the press conference that the financial crisis was an unfortunate event, but it should not be an excuse to neglect the climate change issue which affects many generations to come.

"The financial crisis should not be used as an excuse not to honour commitments on the Millennium Development Goals or on climate change," said Sha. "I have not heard of any country saying it would cut funds for this or that purpose due to the financial crisis.

"On the contrary, the Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon has quoted leaders as saying that the financial crisis should not be used as an excuse."

Sha added that addressing climate change is a very costly affair, and it is not known how many trillions of dollars this would require. It was thus important to address how to obtain the funds.

He said that countries should contribute to financing, according to their responsibility and capability.

To a question on the bail-out of financial institutions, Sha said that there could be a comparison made on the amount spent on the bailing out of Wall Street firms and other financial institutions with the amount spent on official development assistance, and a conclusion could be made on this.