China appealed to exclude its giant export sector in the next treaty on climate change, as doubts grow whether the world can close ranks by a deadline of December.
Rich nations buying Chinese goods bear responsibility, a Chinese negotiator said, estimating that export production caused up to 20 percent of the Asian power's carbon emissions blamed for global warming.
"It is a very important item to make a fair agreement," senior Chinese climate official Li Gao said during a visit to Washington.
|Vehicles pass a power plant in Beijing as a water cooling tower emits a cloud of steam.|
Climate envoys from China, Japan and the European Union were holding talks with US President Barack Obama's administration as the clock ticks to the December conference in Copenhagen meant to approve a post-Kyoto Protocol deal.
Developed nations demand that developing countries such as China and India take action under the new treaty. They had no obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, leading Obama's predecessor George W. Bush to reject it.
But Li said it was unfair to put the highest burden on China, which by some measures has surpassed the United States as the world's top emitter.
"We are at the low end of the production line for the global economy," Li told a forum.
"We produce products and these products are consumed by other countries, especially the developed countries. This share of emissions should be taken by the consumers but not the producers," he said.
Li said Beijing was not trying to avoid action on climate change, noting that Obama in his address to Congress last month said China "has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient."
Li's remarks met immediate skepticism, with other negotiators saying it would be a logistical nightmare to find a way to regulate carbon emissions at exports' destination.
Asking importers to handle emissions "would mean that we would also like them to have jurisdiction and legislative powers in order to control and limit those," top EU climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said.
"I'm not sure whether my Chinese colleague would agree on that particular point," he said.
China's chief climate official, Xie Zhenhua, was also in Washington where he met with US global warming pointman Todd Stern, who praised Beijing's "broad work" on climate change but sought greater cooperation.
"This is a historic opportunity for both countries to contribute to a better future for the planet," Stern said, according to the State Department.
But Obama has run into resistance in Congress from members of Bush's Republican Party who say tough measures to reduce emissions would further hurt an economy in its roughest patch in decades.
Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change which organized the forum, said that countries should be ready to accept setting only a framework in Copenhagen.
"We can still make very substantial progress toward a final agreement and perhaps the best way to do that is aiming for a strong interim agreement in Copenhagen," she said.
Runge-Metzger said the EU believed the world now had the political will for an agreement in Copenhagen but conceded: "It doesn't have to be a deal that goes into each and every technical detail."
Japan's chief negotiator Shinsuke Sugiyama said that Asia's largest economy -- which is struggling to meet its own obligations under the Kyoto treaty reached in its ancient capital -- was waiting for Washington and Beijing.
"Japan will not repeat Kyoto," Sugiyama said. "At Kyoto we were not able to involve the biggest emitters in the world by now -- and that means the United States of America and China."
Li hit back that Japan, not China, was among countries with "historical responsibility" for global warming -- which UN scientists say threatens entire species if left unchecked.
"If I were Japanese, I would be very proud of the Kyoto Protocol. It seems the ambassador is not," Li said.