BEIJING — China said Tuesday that it was committed to making this year's Copenhagen climate change conference a success, sounding a positive note at the close of a two-day visit to Beijing by President Barack Obama's global warming envoy.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang gave few details and reasserted China's insistence on "common but differentiated responsibilities" under which developed countries such as the U.S. would bear most of the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
However, Qin portrayed talks between Obama envoy Todd Stern and Chinese officials, including Vice Premier Li Keqiang, as constructive, possibly indicating positive momentum toward an agreement between the two nations that they can take to the December conference in the Danish capital.
The sides agreed to "push forward the Copenhagen climate change conference to yield positive results," Qin said Tuesday.
U.S. officials have so far failed to reach a consensus with China on reducing carbon emissions. Top Chinese advisers on the issue have dismissed U.S. and Australian proposals to reduce their levels as too little while rejecting demands on developing economies such as China as unrealistic.
While welcoming calls for cooperation, China says global warming is largely the responsibility of rich nations, which should provide funds and technologies to developing countries to cut carbon emissions.
However, critics say a Chinese proposal to reduce its emissions by 20 percent per unit of GDP from 2005 to 2010 would still result in a net increase because of the country's high rate of economic growth.
Stern made no public remarks during the visit, although U.S. Assistant Energy Secretary David Sandalow said Monday's talks had been "fruitful and productive" while still pointing to the need to overcome mutual suspicions about each other's motives in pushing the climate change agenda.
"China can and will need to do much more if the world is going to have any hope of containing climate change," Sandalow said in remarks distributed by the U.S. Embassy.
Stern's visit follows one by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month devoted to climate change, illustrating the new stress placed on the issue under the Obama administration.
Qin said Tuesday that the two sides pledged to boost exchanges and cooperation on environmental and clean energy issues and technology as part of regular economic talks.
"China and U.S. strengthening cooperation and dialogue in this regard will be beneficial to the development of bilateral relations and also will help the international community to conduct more cooperation and take more action in this regard," Qin said.
Stern's meeting Monday with Li had already produced positive noises from the Chinese side, with the vice premier telling him that "China has noticed the change of the U.S. government on climate change as well as the positive measures it has taken," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The Copenhagen agreement will succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required 37 industrial countries to cut their emissions by a total 5 percent from 1990 levels, but required nothing from any other nations _ a fact cited by President George W. Bush when he rejected the treaty.
U.S. officials fear a failure to get commitments from fast-expanding economies like China, India and Brazil could undermine domestic political support for Washington's own pledged reductions. Stern last month said those countries cannot remain "on the voluntary side of the equation forever."
Developing nations are pledging to slow the growth of their emissions as long as that doesn't affect economic growth, and demand that together the rich countries reduce their emissions within a 25 to 40 percent range from 1990 levels by 2020.