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Fear of low China target casts cloud over climate talks

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A man walks past the cooling towers of a power plant in Yingtan, Jiangxi province, November 25, 2009.

Fear of low China target casts cloud over climate talks

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is preparing to unveil a target to curb carbon emissions ahead of a major climate summit in Copenhagen next month, but experts and negotiators worry Beijing’s much-anticipated figure may disappoint.

Offers to tackle carbon pollution from China and the United States, the world’s two top emitters, are key to the success of the U.N.-led talks, which originally aimed to seal a new framework to fight climate change.

The negotiations have run out of time and instead a political pact is expected to be agreed at the Dec 7-18 Denmark meeting with a legally binding agreement in 2010.

Beijing is considering a reduction of around 40 to 45 percent in “carbon intensity” — the amount of greenhouse gases emitted for each yuan of national income — from 2005 levels, sources with knowledge of the negotiations say.

It is expected to announce the number before the Copenhagen talks start, perhaps as early as this week.

But critics say Beijing is almost half-way to that goal after just four years of an energy efficiency drive, and warn that an unambitious target could slow a push for cleaner growth.

“Maybe the Chinese government likes to claim by 2020 there will be 40 percent reduction … but it is not aggressive enough, we have to argue for at least 45 percent,” said Yang Fuqiang, director of Global Climate solutions at WWF.

China pledged in 2006 to cut its energy intensity 20 percent by 2010 and is more or less on track to meet that goal. This brings a matching improvement in emissions because every tonne of coal that is not burned keeps carbon dioxide out of the air.

The rapid roll-out of renewables and nuclear has also avoided extra greenhouse gas emissions that would have been created if that energy came from fossil fuels. So a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency brings a greater carbon intensity cut.

“If you convert that into carbon numbers, it’s a little less than a 25 percent decrease,” Jonathan Pershing, U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said of China’s expected energy savings through 2010, in an interview earlier this month.

Even with a higher-end target of 45 percent, this leaves just over 20 percent to be achieved in the coming decade.

WHAT IS NOTABLE?

President Hu Jintao promised in September that China would unveil a goal for a “notable” cut in carbon intensity by 2020, compared with 2005, a landmark because it was the first time China had accepted it must put measurable controls on emissions.

Beijing’s move was seen as a key step toward unblocking U.N. negotiations that had stalled as rich and poor nations argued over who should cut emissions, by how much and who should pay.

But support for China might wane if rich nations feel Beijing is dressing up its normal economic trajectory as an emissions goal — and experts say that China does already seem on track to make significant cuts in the next decade, in part as it reaps the reward of its energy efficiency and renewables programs.

“My view is that a Chinese target of a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions intensity between 2005 and 2020 would be a continuation of historical trends,” said Jim Watson, from the Tyndall Center for climate change research in Britain.

“If ‘business as usual’ is no progress in carbon intensity reduction, which is very unlikely, then 40 percent is quite big. But compared to historic trends, it is not nearly as big as it sounds,” he added in an email to Reuters.

With the U.S. commitment considered modest by many — President Barack Obama has proposed a 17 percent emissions cut by 2020 from 2005 levels — the two may be aiming for politically acceptable compromises that could potentially be ramped up later.

China’s target has an advantage over any proffered by the United States, however, as its negotiating team do not have to take their deal back for government approval — it will be already endorsed by the ruling Communist Party.

“Whatever the government puts on the table will be a domestic commitment,” said Wu Changhua, China head of The Climate Group.

PEAK YEAR

China might also be considering unveiling a target for the year it wants to see emissions peak, something it has so far resisted as it could imply an implicit cap on greenhouse gases.

“The Chinese government’s latest discussions internally have been very encouraging,” said Wu, from the climate think-tank.

“The second possibility (after a 2020 emissions intensity target) is setting out when China is going to peak in terms of emissions,” she told Reuters.

The most optimistic analysts say an economic shift to greener growth that has already started could be sped up so that emissions peak in barely 10 years.

They point to China’s dramatic transformation from poverty-stricken recluse to leading world power in just three decades as a sign of what the government can do.

“In my road map for CO2 emissions, we reach the peak by 2020 and after that decline,” said prominent economist Hu Angang.

Most estimates, however, are more conservative, suggesting a peak around 2030, the date laid out in a major government study on climate change policy options published earlier this year.

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Zurich heap pressure on under-fire Leonardo with Milan win

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Zurich heap pressure on under-fire Leonardo with Milan win

MILAN, Italy (AFP) – FC Zurich pulled off a famous and unlikely victory as Finland’s Hannu Tihinen scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over AC Milan in the Champions League at the San Siro on Wednesday.

And this latest set-back will surely have piled even more pressure on under-fire Milan coach Leonardo.

In four home matches this season Milan have scored only one goal, also winning only once, while they have fared little better on their travels.

But the significance of this home defeat to European football minnows can hardly be understated, particularly as Milan’s next two Group C games will be against free-scoring Real Madrid.

And Leonardo admitted his team have lost a certain aura.

“Of course right now things are not simple, a win would lift our confidence and we need to start getting the results to do that,” he said.

“We’re struggling to do what we want to do, we have the desire but we’re not managing to do it.

“If you think about today, our performances and our results won’t be putting fear into the rest of the world.

“But don’t forget we beat Marseille 2-1 and with the same team. I believe in this team and I believe we have the resources to get out of this situation.”

Having also won only two of six league matches, already Milan’s pretentions both at home and in Europe look decidedly fragile.

Leonardo began this game under pressure and the first half would have made uncomfortable viewing for the Brazilian.

Zurich coach Bernard Challandes admitted his team had at times been under the cosh but said they deserved their result.

“It’s clear that we’re very, very happy to have beaten Milan away from home, it’s an historic victory for us,” he said.

“We’re a small team and we’ve won away to Milan. In the last few years we talked about commitment and we got a lot of that tonight.

“Lately results haven’t been what they should be, so I’m proud but we were also a little bit lucky.

“We needed that because in the second half Milan put us under a lot of pressure, we had a bit of luck but that shouldn’t deflect from the team’s credit because they deserved it.”

On seven minutes Milan full-back Ignazio Abate mishit a cross from the right that almost caught out Zurich goalkeeper Johnny Leoni, who bizarrely reacted by kicking the ball off his line.

But on 10 minutes the visitors were in front with a goal from a former West Ham player that the Premier League club‘s current manager would have been proud of.

Milan Gajic swing over a corner and Tihinen arrived unmolested at the near post to flick the ball with his heel between his legs and past Marco Storari in the Milan goal — a near copy of a goal Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola scored for Chelsea against Norwich in 2002.

It was an open game and after Clarence Seedorf had volleyed over for the hosts, Johan Volanthen escaped on the counter-attack and pulled the ball back for Xavier Margairaz, who failed to keep either his shot or his head down.

Leonardo wasted no time in trying to fire up his side, bringing on former world player of the year Ronaldinho for Seedorf at the break.

Just before the hour mark Inzaghi almost levelled again as he met a dangerous Andrea Pirlo free-kick with his head but Leoni made a flying one-handed save.

Moments later Ronaldinho sent Pato in on goal with a sumptuous through ball but although his young compatriot lifted the ball over Leoni, it dropped wide of the post.

Leoni then blocked a close range Inzaghi shot with his foot and Storari kept out a drilled Margairaz effort with his boot.

Milan kept pushing and on 88 minutes captain Massimo Ambrosini shaved the outside of the post with a low strike from 20 yards.

With almost the last kick of the match Gianluca Zambrotta crashed a stunning shot against the Zurich upright but the Swiss deserved that bit of luck and the three points to boost their qualification hopes after their 5-2 home defeat to Real.

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