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[BEIJING] China released details of its greenhouse gas emissions for the first time in a report released on 9 November. The report showed that China is the biggest producer of these gases after the United States.

The figures were presented in China's Initial National Communication on Climate Change to the United Nations (UN), a requirement of all signatories to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Although China's total emissions are high, the emissions per person are relatively low due to China's large population. However, the figures presented are from 1994, as required by the UN. Current emissions are likely to be much higher.

China mainly relies on fossil fuels, particularly coal, for energy. Between 1996 and 2003, oil imports increased from 20 million tonnes to 90 million tonnes.

According to Khalid Malik, the UN resident coordinator in Beijing, China's emissions are increasing steadily. Energy consumption in China is expected to continue rising significantly as it aims to quadruple its gross domestic product by 2020. Car ownership has increased by 30 per cent since 2002.

Unlike developed countries, China and other developing nations that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change are not required to reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases to below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

However, new negotiations on carbon dioxide emissions will be launched next year under the framework of the protocol. Large developing countries such as China and India are expected to have some obligations to cut emissions after the current Kyoto Protocol agreement expires in 2012.

According to China's submission to the UN, it emitted 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, 34.3 million tonnes of methane and 850,000 tonnes of nitrous oxide in 1994. The report also outlines impacts of climate change anticipated by China. These include more droughts, floods and other extreme weather.

Lu Xuedong, an official at China's Ministry of Science and Technology, says China is working on a national report on climate change that will detail the current situation. The report will also describe the steps China is taking to adapt to climate change, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says Lu, who is one of the authors of the forthcoming report.

The report should be launched officially early in 2005 and will serve as a reference for local governments when drafting their socio-economic development plans for the next five years (2006-10).