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The U.S. and China together produce about one half of the world's greenhouse gasses. They are also the two countries most often mentioned as thwarting progress toward a global treaty to slow global warming.

The Bush administration has not changed its stance at the latest round of climate talks in Bali, Indonesia. But some observers say China has softened its hard line.

NPR's Richard Harris reports from the conference in Bali.

RICHARD HARRIS: China has often been perceived as using the climate talks primarily to jockey for economic position. But there are signs the country is starting to change its tune.

Yu Jie works in Beijing for the Heinrich Boll Foundation, a green advocacy group. She says the change with China started at home. First, a Chinese scientist became concerned about the potential impact of climate change on agriculture and other fragile resources.

Ms. YU JIE (Heinrich Boll Foundation): The glaciers melting will have a severe impact on hundreds of millions of people's water resources. Honestly, no country really want to see the bad impact of climate change, but the issue is who will have the free ride.

HARRIS: China wouldn't mind that free ride, since it is trying to grow its economy rapidly to pull many millions of people out of poverty. But Yu says China's energy demand is growing even faster than its economy, and that simply can't be sustained.

Ms. JIE: If you don't have enough sufficient energy resources for the future to use, then how do you sustain the development? So it's both on the development and the environment agenda.

HARRIS: Those realizations have led to ambitious goals for energy efficiency within China, including automobile emission standards today that are even more strict than the American standard being contemplated for the year 2020.

And Yu says that new attitude about climate change is now showing up at the bargaining table. The Chinese delegation in Bali isn't just being defensive any more in climate talks; it's actually bringing proposals to the table.

Jennifer Morgan is from the Berlin Office of E3G, a nonprofit that's trying to foster clean energy deals between Europe and China.

Ms. JENNIFER MORGAN (E3G): I think I could say that China in the last 10 days of these negotiations has been probably the most proactive in a positive sense here.

HARRIS: They have come with written proposals saying they're ready to control their emissions in a verifiable way.

Ms. MORGAN: They are no longer saying we don't want to do anything; they are saying we're not ready for a national cap yet.

HARRIS: And as long as China isn't willing to talk about capping its emissions, the United States says it won't talk about it either.

But Morgan says China is less insistent about a binding commitment than it was even a year ago.

Ms. MORGAN: They have said informally that they know that this will come, but they're not ready for it in the next commitment period, which starts in 2013.

HARRIS: What China really needs, Morgan says, is ready access to technologies that can help their economy grow while keeping their emissions down. This has all sorts of implications for trade policy with the industrial north. And clearly China will be attempting to further its own interests too.

Ms. MORGAN: They'll be hard negotiators, don't get me wrong. They'll be looking for finance and technology, and they'll be looking for a signal from the north that they're ready to move. But China is here - has said it's a historical moment, and they've put something on the table. We'll see if developed countries can respond.

HARRIS: With talks set to end on Friday, time is running short.

Richard Harris, NPR News, Bali.

INSKEEP: And as those talks near an end, the United States faces new pressure to start negotiating targets for reducing greenhouse gasses. Some nations want to set a goal to at least consider cutting emissions by 25 to 40 percent in the coming years. The U.S. is among the governments opposed.

But now a top European official has issued a warning. If the United States does not reach agreement with other nations in Bali, Europeans will not even show up for the Bush administration's own conference to set goals on climate change.

This is NPR News.

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