China Urges U.S. to Sign Kyoto Protocol

China — one of the world's major polluters — urged the U.S. to join the Kyoto treaty Wednesday, rejecting arguments that the pact is flawed because it fails to restrict emissions by developing countries.

China's Sun Guoshunis said his country was already cutting the polluting emissions, adding it was unfair to expect China and India — with the world's largest populations — to ask their impoverished people to cut back on energy consumption.

"We really feel pity that the U.S. has not yet, and is not going to join the Kyoto Protocol, not only because of the size of its total emissions, but also because of its higher per capita emissions," Sun, director of the Department of Treaty and Law at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He spoke during the first meeting of the 140 countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol since it was signed in 1997 and went into effect in February.

More than 8,000 environmentalists, scientists and government officials were attending the 10-day conference in Montreal. Some 120 environment ministers and other government leaders were expected to arrive next week for the final negotiations.

On Wednesday, the conference finalized the treaty's so-called "rule book," establishing greenhouse emissions cuts and mechanisms to allow developed countries to earn credit for carbon reduction by investing in development projects in other nations.

"The Kyoto Protocol is now fully operational. This is an historic step," said Canada's Environment Minister, Stephane Dion, who is presiding over the conference.

The Kyoto agreement targets carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases blamed for rising global temperatures and disrupted weather patterns. It calls on the top 35 industrialized nations to cut emissions to 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

Harlan Watson, the senior climate negotiator for the State Department, said Washington would not be party to any agreement with legally binding targets.

"There's more than one way to address climate change," Watson said. "The idea that you have to be bound by a Kyoto-like structure to address the issue, we believe is a fallacious one."

The United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, argues the accord is flawed because of it does not restrict emissions by developing countries. President Bush has called for an 18 percent reduction in the U.S. growth rate of greenhouse gases by 2012 and has committed $5 billion a year on science and technology to combat global warming.

Environmental groups have denounced Washington at the conference, not only for turning its back on Kyoto, but also for saying it won't participate in negotiations for commitments to greenhouse cuts after the first phase of Kyoto expires in 2012.

The Bush administration said Kyoto would cost the U.S. economy $400 billion and almost 5 million jobs, while excluding China and India from mandatory emission caps.

China is a major world polluter with carbon emissions are soaring. Many cities, including Beijing, are thick with air pollution and large regions have been hit by drought, failing crops and sandstorms linked to global warming.

Sun noted that while China is the world's second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, it also has the largest population, 1.3 billion people.

While China's gross domestic product had quadrupled from 1980 to 2000, "energy consumption only doubled," he added. "So that shows big efforts by the Chinese government."

Sun said China's objective was to raise energy efficiency by 20 percent between 2006 and 2010.