China loses $38.6 billion or up to 5% of its GDP annually due to weather-related disasters, a senior Chinese official said in Beijing on Tuesday, as the country experienced one of its warmest winters on record. Meanwhile a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the Developed Countries must take the lead in cutting greenhouse gases.
| Dr. Qin Dahe, Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration and Secretary of the Communist Party Leadership Group|
Weather related disasters, including droughts, floods and tropical storms, are causing direct economic losses of up to 300 billion yuan ($38.6 billion) in China each year, the director of the China Meteorological Administration, Qin Dahe said.
The financial losses, which exclude indirect costs such as lost labour hours, account for between 2 to 5% of China’s GDP a year, he said. The country suffered many natural disasters in 2006, the worst since 1998, resulting in the death of over 2,000 people while millions were left homeless. Qin said China was planning to launch more weather satellites this year to monitor weather changes and develop new ways to minimise the impact of adverse weather. The government will invest millions of dollars this year to complete a meteorological radar network that was initiated in 1999.
On Monday, the temperature in Beijing reached 16 degrees Celsius, the highest February temperature on record. The normal average temperature at the start of spring in the Chinese lunar calendar, is minus 1.7 degrees Celsius. However, the average figure on Monday was 6.5 degrees Celsius.
The average rainfall in January in central Shaanxi province in China's North-West, was 50% to 90% below the average and temperatures were one to two degrees Celsius higher. A drought is expected to worsen in February as temperatures are expected to be higher than the same period in previous years and little rainfall is forecast, local meteorologists said.
In east China’s Shandong province, where the average rainfall was only 0.7 millimetres in January, down 91% from the average in past years, drought has affected large areas of cropland and is the worse in 30 years, the Beijing Observatory said.
Rich industrialised nations must take the lead in cutting greenhouse gases
Rich industrialised nations must take the lead in cutting greenhouse gases since they bear the “unshirkable responsibility” for causing global warming, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday.
| Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Jiang Yu takes a question at a press briefing in Beijing, July 6, 2006. [Xinhua] |
China is regarded as the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US. However, the country’s per capita emissions have remained far below the global average.
The Financial Times reports on Tuesday that China each year adds new power generating capacity equal to the UK’s entire electricity grid.
However, China surpassed this benchmark last year, according to new figures released quietly at the end of January by the China Electric Power News, the mouthpiece of the state industry.
The paper reported that new power capacity in 2006 had expanded by 102 gigawatts, or roughly equal to the entire capacity of the UK and Thailand combined, or about twice the generating assets of California, the state with the biggest economy in the US.
“It must be pointed out that climate change has been caused by the long-term historic emissions of Developed Countries and their high per-capita emissions,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu is reported to have said at a briefing on Tuesday.
“Developed countries bear an unshirkable responsibility,” Jiang said.
China Meteorological Administration, Qin Dahe made clear that other countries should not expect China to take the lead on a climate change agenda.
“As a developing country with a fast growing economy and large population, it will require a great deal of money to completely change the energy structure and adopt clean energy,” he said.
China would “need time” to catch up with the US, Europe and Japan in the use of clean energy technology, he said.
The FT says that Chinese analysts have in the past expressed disappointment with the level of environmental technology transfer, a key goal of the Kyoto Protocol.
However, Beijing is benefiting from trading schemes set up under the protocol that are intended to find the most efficient ways to cut total emissions by allowing companies and countries to buy “carbon credits” that represent reductions achieved in China.