BEIJING - The United Nations' climate chief has hailed China's efforts to improve the prospects of a climate summit in Mexico later this year by hosting a crucial round of talks in Tianjin next month.
"Hosting the negotiations in Tianjin, the last formal stop before Cancun is an important gesture by China," Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told China Daily.
Figueres, who was appointed to the post in May, finalized preparations for the Oct 4-9 meeting in the northern port city of Tianjin during a visit to Beijing last week.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said China would work with other countries and the UN to push sustainable development when he met Figueres on Friday.
Young-Woo Park, regional director and representative of Asia and the Pacific with the UN Environment Programme, also welcomed the Chinese government's initiative last week.
"Regardless of how Tianjin contributes to the Cancun summit, organizing the event already sends a clear signal to both the international community and the Chinese people of how seriously China's government is taking the climate issue," he told China Daily.
Negotiators from 194 nations will gather in Cancun, Mexico, in November to try to build on the Copenhagen Accord signed last December to agree on a legally binding treaty limiting global emissions of greenhouse gases during the next decade. This follows on from the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
While calling for more efforts from both industrialized and developing countries, Figueres said governments needed to "exercise some flexibility" to reach agreement and uphold the principle of transparency.
"It is in their interests to be very practical, very pragmatic and take very concrete and firm steps forward in Cancun," she said.
Lessons from the Copenhagen summit suggest that all countries should adhere to the principle of "transparency and inclusion", and the UNFCCC was working closely with the Mexican government to ensure that, Figueres said.
"It is unavoidable in international negotiations that a small number of countries will hold discussions among themselves," she said, before adding that it was vital that the process should be as inclusive as possible.
"You must ensure that other nations can express their interests and communicate back what is being discussed in the small rooms."
This year has seen a gradual integration and understanding of what countries are trying to include in a new climate treaty, according to Figueres.
Among them, she said, were "operational pillars" including the creation of a climate fund, technology transfer mechanisms and decisions on how to support efforts to slow down deforestation.
She also noted that support for highly vulnerable countries, such as small islands and the least developed nations, was vital.
However, climate experts were not overly optimistic about Cancun.
"Countries have become more practical after Copenhagen," said Wu Changhua, the China president of the Climate Group. "Tianjin will be a meeting where nations consolidate their consensus."
How the US will approach Cancun and the prospects of Washington passing climate legislation were also major factors, said Wu.
Cancun will be less about reaching a binding treaty than moving forward on operational decisions, such as funding and the transfer of technology from industrialized nations to developing countries to deal with climate change, Figueres said.
Of specific importance will be whether industrial nations met the pledge to transfer billions of dollars to developing nations, she said.
Rich nations promised in Copenhagen to give $30 billion over three years, with an eventual goal of $100 billion by 2020.
The Tianjin conference will be critical in allowing countries "to begin to identify what is already ripe for adoption (in Cancun) ... and what are those issues that require further conversation," Figueres said.