COP27: China's top climate envoy calls on rich countries to support poor nations at most risk from environmental damage

China's top climate diplomat has called on wealthy nations to offer more support for developing countries that have the most to lose from climate change.

His comments came at the start of the United Nations' climate conference in Egypt, where delegates from nearly 200 countries are preparing to discuss issues including compensating poorer nations for damage linked to global warming in the next two weeks.

"I hope the conference this time will meet the demands of developing countries as much as possible, as it is held in Egypt, a developing country," said Xie Zhenhua, China's special envoy for climate change.

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He was speaking on Sunday at an event in China's pavilion at the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Xie said he hopes this year's summit can address the needs of developing countries in the areas of emissions reduction, financing, adaptation and capacity building, and that there will be progress in addressing their losses for damage caused by climate change.

The thorny issue of compensation from rich nations to poorer ones that are the most vulnerable to climate change is expected to be high on the agenda of the COP27 summit for the first time.

Diplomats from around the world have approved a much-disputed agenda item on Sunday to talk about "funding arrangements responding to loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including a focus on addressing loss and damage."

The agreement "reflects a sense of solidarity and empathy for the suffering of the victims of climate-induced disasters," Egypt's Sameh Shoukry, the COP27 president, told the opening plenary on Sunday.

However, the matter is expected to prove divisive. Previous attempts to address loss and damage have faltered, with wealthy countries reluctant to fund lower-income nations for their smaller share of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rich nations failed to meet their pledge to deliver US$100 billion per year by 2020 to help poorer countries cope with climate change. They made the promise in 2009 at the COP15 biodiversity conference staged in Montreal, Canada.

The developed nations only provided US$83.3 billion, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in July.

At last year's COP26 summit in Glasgow, the European Union and the United States rejected calls for a separate financial mechanism.

China, the world's largest carbon emitter, has sent a delegation of more than 50 people to Egypt this year, led by Zhao Yingmin, vice-minister of Ecology and Environment.

Xie said on Sunday that China has "actively implemented" its commitments from the Paris Agreement as it aims to reach peak carbon emissions by the end of this decade and carbon neutrality by 2060.

China's "carbon intensity" - a measure of the emissions the country produces as a proportion of GDP - last year was 3.8 per cent lower than 2020's level and 50.8 per cent less than in 2005, he said.

"We call on all sectors of the international community to practice green and low-carbon production and lifestyles ... and make positive contributions to the global response to climate change," said Xie.

He did not say whether China would hold talks with the US, the world's second-biggest carbon emitter, on topics related to climate cooperation. China suspended bilateral talks on climate issues in August, one of several measures taken in retaliation for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, said last month that he hoped delegates from both countries could meet in Sharm el-Sheikh.

"We have argued adamantly that it's not a bilateral relation, it's a multilateral global threat ... I still genuinely hope that we will come together, and China and the United States will find the opportunity to do some work together," said Kerry last month.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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