UN climate talks choking in smog

China’s capital Beijing on Thursday shared the title of most polluted city in the country, as delegates from around the world worked in nearby Tianjin towards a deal to combat global warming.

The China Environmental Monitoring Centre rated both Beijing and the central city of Zhengzhou as having “slightly polluted” air — a rating of III2 on scale from I (excellent) to V (hazardous).

The US embassy in Beijing, however, qualified the air as “hazardous” in its own measurements made available on the popular microblogging site Twitter (http://twitter.com/beijingair).

At the joint WTA/ATP China Open in the north of the capital, organisers were forced to turn on the floodlights on the stadium courts at about 4:00 pm (0800 GMT) due to the poor visibility, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

The pollution level could not be attributed to Beijing’s infamous traffic jams, as the capital’s roads were mainly clear on the last day of a week-long national holiday.

The talks in Tianjin, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Beijing, are part of long-running efforts through the United Nations to secure a post-2012 treaty to limit global warming and avoid potential environmental catastrophes.

After being blamed by many in the developed world for derailing a summit in Copenhagen last year, China has insisted it wants to foster a spirit of cooperation at this week’s talks.

China is now the world’s largest source of greenhouse gases and its emissions continue to increase as its economy expands at near double-digit pace.

It pledged last year to slow the growth in those emissions by reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

That is essentially a vow of greater energy efficiency that would likely, however, see emissions continue to increase, and officials have so far rejected suggestions that Beijing commit to emissions cuts and outside verification.

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