When negotiators start their climate talks in Cancun, Mexico this week, they should remember that climate change goes beyond political trade-offs, the carbon market and the profit making of green business opportunities.
For many Chinese, especially those in ecologically fragile regions, it's a life-or-death issue. The droughts and floods this year are evidence that China is also a victim of climate change and it needs global efforts to mitigate the affects.
In 2010, prolonged springtime droughts in Yunnan province and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and summertime floods and rainstorms across the country left hundreds of thousands dead. People in these affected regions not only lost family but were also plunged into poverty overnight.
A catastrophic mudslide, triggered by rainstorms in Zhouqu county in Gansu province on Aug 8, left 1,472 dead, 294 missing and more than 15,000 homeless.
Before the Copenhagen Summit last year, I visited farmers in Gansu, who told me that they used to experience a rainy season from July to September, but now, all the rainfall is concentrated into just one month, which results in floods and landslides.
Climate change doesn't necessarily mean temperature increases. In Sichuan, my home province, scientific data shows there has been no temperature increase during the past five decades, although national and global average annual temperatures are rising. However, the people of my hometown suffer from disasters again and again. Besides earthquakes, the residents also suffer from droughts, floods and mudslides. Many of my childhood friends and relatives suffer direly from the extreme weather and frequent disasters.
Before Cancun, the Chinese government published an annual report on its policies and action plans in tackling climate change. In the report, the government gave a summary of the changes in the nation's climate in the previous two years.
However, the authors of the report focused on business and low-carbon opportunities and it seems that only market forces can reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
They point out the life-or-death challenges but fail to touch on solutions.
Fortunately, China's leadership has shown courage in facing the challenges and disasters recently. In October, at its annual plenary, the Chinese leadership recognized the severity of the ecological disasters and natural catastrophes brought about by the abnormal weather conditions and pledged they were determined to assume responsibility for taking action at the national and global level.
I hope during the next five-year-plan period, the authorities can conduct a national survey to determine how many households are still living in ecologically fragile regions and incorporate this information into the plan's formulation. I sincerely hope that they can make a timetable to reduce the death toll from floods, droughts and landslides to a minimum.
What the negotiations in Cancun will achieve remains open to question. However, I personally believe that every country should integrate its domestic efforts into a low-carbon development blueprint. Meanwhile, the developed economies should accelerate the translation of their promises of financial and technological assistance as soon as possible.
For China, the most important thing after Cancun is to set up a new division under the National Development and Reform Commission, which is coordinating climate change work. The new division should coordinate the response to climate-related disasters and locate ecologically fragile families and relocate them.
In the face of life-or-death issues, the Cancun negotiations are important and low-carbon technology and green industry are vital. Time is ticking away
The author is China Daily Brussels chief correspondent and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org