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China Wants Some Leeway On Emissions

China said Tuesday it was working hard to increase its use of renewable energy, but needs to be given some leeway in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

China's contribution over time to climate change has been relatively small, an economic planning official said when asked about China's attitude toward the focus on the issue at a meeting of Pacific Rim nations in Australia this week.

President Hu Jintao, who is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, will propose an initiative on sustainable management of forests at the meeting.

"I hope the international media will give us some development rights, some development space and not overly blame us," said Chen Deming, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top planning agency.

China's soaring economy has produced an ever-greater amount of gases blamed for contributing to global warming, with one Dutch study saying it has overtaken the U.S. as the leading producer of carbon dioxide.

However, Chen said China shouldn't be held overly accountable because it has only recently become a major producer, contributing only 9 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions between 1950-2000. China's per-capita rate of carbon dioxide production also remains low given its population of 1.3 billion, he said.

Chen also reiterated a goal of producing 15 percent of total energy supplies from renewable sources such as wind, hydropower and biofuels by 2020.

He acknowledged environmental criticism of China's many dams, but said the government would pay strict attention to such impacts while seeking to nearly triple hydropower capacity to 300 gigawatts.

Also Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry introduced senior diplomat Yu Qingtai as its special representative to international talks seeking to reach a global agreement to limit greenhouse gases after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Beijing has committed itself to cutting energy consumption by 20 percent per unit of gross domestic product, along with a 10 percent cut in major pollutants, between 2006 and 2010.

Clinching a post-Kyoto deal will likely take several years of intense and difficult negotiations, which are expected to start at a December meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The United States is not a party to the Kyoto agreement and large developing countries such as China, India and Brazil are exempt from its obligations. They have argued that emissions reductions should not be allowed to hurt their economic growth and poverty-eradication efforts.

China's environmental watchdog has closed down 400 factories since it started a national campaign in July to tackle water pollution, said Tian Weiyong, deputy environmental supervision chief of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

Tian said another 762 companies and projects had been suspended or fined due to environmental violations. He did not give details about the affected companies or their alleged violations.

The factories paid fines of $97 million, Tian said. The campaign aimed to clean up industries along some of China's major waterways, including the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. China's waterways are dangerously polluted after decades of rapid economic growth and lax enforcement.

"All industries are required to pass environmental appraisals before starting construction. If not approved, the projects are forbidden," Tian said in a statement on the Web site of the central government.

In August, the government said it was planning heftier fines for water polluters.

A draft amendment to a decade-old water pollution law would remove a $132,000 cap on fines for water polluters, and would allow penalties of 20 percent to 30 percent of the direct economic losses caused by a spill or pollution, the China Daily newspaper reported.

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