China backs the EU's plans to continue the Kyoto Protocol meant to slash greenhouse gas emissions, but not without conditions, according to a report from the Guardian on Monday.
Europe's plans for a global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 may be back on track at the UN climate talks after China and Brazil, two of the biggest developing countries in the world, indicated they were prepared to consider the proposed accord, albeit with conditions.
Upon his arrival at the UN climate change conference in Durban, Chris Huhne, UK's secretary of state for energy and climate change, said there was a "real chance" that the faltering talks could be revived.
But China said an agreement could not go ahead unless five conditions were met and that they would be unlikely to implement anything before 2020, which is when the current round of voluntary pledgesare due to expire after having been agreed upon a year ago.
The conditions include the EU and other countries signing a new legally-binding agreement under the Kyoto Protocol, where developed countries would financially assist poorer nations in tackling climate change.
After eight days of talks in South Africa, the EU now leads nearly 100 mostly small developing countries in calls for a global agreement to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol and for all states to sign up to emission cuts.
"There is a real signal from what China is saying that there may be flexibility in its position [and we] could see commitment to a global, legally-binding agreement," Mr Huhne told the Guardian.
"Until now, there has been a standoff between leading countries about who should move first. Someone has to lead. It's just possible we're beginning to see leadership, not [just] from traditional [players] but also from big emitters and the developing world."
Acknowledging that negotiations could still fail, Mr Huhne said that while this was not a global deal, it was about "getting everyone to have a similar vision, or road map".
"We're not going to get a good result if people stick with the positions they came with," he added.
Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation in Durban, said China was happy to talk to the EU.
But China remained firm on its stance that the richest countries should meet existing responsibilities to cut emissions, as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol.
"Every country shall undertake obligations and responsibilities according to their capacity. China would love to take part in that. China would like to join a legal document," Mr Xie said.
Arguments mounted, however, over whether China, as the world's largest carbon emitter, could still be classified as a developing country. "China clearly cannot say it's a small developing country. It's so big, it is a global player," Mr Huhne said.
But Mr Xie said that China was adamant over its classification as a developing country. "Per capita GDP is only $4,300 and we have 128 million population living within $1 a day," he said.
The continuation of the Kyoto Protocol looks uncertain after Canada, Japan and Russia said they will not sign up to a second commitment period, commencing in 2013.
India maintained its position that it would not agree to any new treaty, while Brazil said it was "open to the options for a new treaty" being put forward by the EU.
Brazilian Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo confirmed Brazil's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, which he described as a "rules-based system". He said it was better than the alternative suggested by some countries, based on an informal agreement according to which countries nationally set voluntary targets.
"We believe Kyoto should be kept alive, especially when you need it in future negotiations on the next steps in the international fight against climate change post-2020," Mr Figueiredo said.