For China, the climate accord approved by 196 countries in Paris this week is not perfect but is a major historic step – and the leading greenhouse gas emitter has made sure to protect its sovereignty during talks.

Xie Zhenhua, senior climate change envoy of Beijing, expressed satisfaction even if it was a so-called flawed agreement that ensued in COP21 or the Paris climate change conference last Saturday.

"There are parts of it that need to be improved. But this doesn't affect the fact that history has taken a huge step forward, and so we are satisfied,” he told reporters after the Saturday talks.

Zhenhua said the accord should provide plenty of impetus for his country’s own green and low-carbon plan. “[A]s we implement it, it will promote our own domestic sustainable development.”

Throughout COP21, Chinese delegates harped on “differentiation, transparency and ambition” as keys in the climate deal, as well as sought to keep Chinese sovereignty intact during negotiations. For instance, they promoted voluntary adjustments to the 2020 to 2030 goals.

China helped established an exception to the five-year mandatory review with clauses such as providing developing countries with flexibility and making the reviews optional.

Also yet to be ironed out are points that put China at odds with the United States, including how to measure and verify national emissions reduction efforts.

When it came to financing, China was also dissatisfied by the deal’s failure to assert a pledge for industrialized countries to shell out at least $100 billion annually for poorer countries by 2020.

Zou Ji, deputy director of Chinese government think tank National Centre for Climate Change Strategy, dubbed the pre-2020 funding “relatively weak” and the post-2020 funding lacking. "[T]here are a lot of specifics that were impossible to put in the agreement,” Ji said.

Back home, in a bid to tackle worsening pollution and carbon emissions, new smartphone applications and monitoring devices had sought to identify and penalize the worst offenders.

The Blue Map app offers pollution date from 3,000 large-scale coal, steel, cement, and petrochemical plants, while palm-sized air quality monitor Laser Egg started to track indoor and outdoor quality of air through measuring fine particular matter.

Technology manager Xu Qinxiang forecasted greater pressure on the government once the Chinese public accesses more information on air pollution. "This will urge the government to control pollutant sources and upgrade heavy industries.”

Amid its continuing bouts with domestic air problem, the Ministry of Environmental Protection also named northern cities as most affected by serious pollution challenges as heating service started for the winter season.

Six cities in Hebei Province, along with Jinan in Shandong Province and the northeastern Shenyang cities, were identified as most hit by polluted air, which prompted the first-ever red alert in Beijing from Dec. 8 to 10.

Photo: Bryan Ledgard | Flickr

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