China reels under a barrage of criticism
By Antoaneta Bezlova
Asia Times Online
BEIJING - China is not happy. This is how one of the
Chinese state-sanctioned newspapers summed up Beijing's
feelings about the week spent negotiating on climate change
in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.
After a very public showdown with the United States in the
early days of the global climate talks, China found itself
attacked by smaller developing countries for benefiting
more than anyone else from carbon credit funding. And as
the Friday deadline for a deal approaches, Beijing has been
seen deflecting the accusation that it was the stumbling
block to reaching a deal.
Describing the fighting camps in Copenhagen in terms
borrowed from the famous Art of War by ancient Chinese
philosopher Sun Tzu, the China Times newspaper said
Beijing's gloom about the talks was growing and there was
no sign of any "ceasefire" in sight.
The ongoing United Nations climate change conference, which
began on December 7, is now in its final phase. Within
government circles and environmental lobbies alike, there
is clear awareness of the importance of China's role in
reaching an agreement.
"This is the first time for China to work on green
cooperation internationally," says Hu Angang, prominent
economist and campaigner for low-carbon future. "Beijing
knows that if we succeed, then the world succeeds; if China
fails, then the world fails."
The talks have reached an impasse due to long-standing
rifts between rich and poor countries, and a fresh division
that has emerged among developing countries. China has
featured prominently in both standoffs and Beijing appears
worried that it is becoming a target of criticism over the
"People will say 'if there is no deal, China is to blame',"
Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei said in an interview with
the Financial Times published this week. "This is a trick
played by developed countries. They have to look at their
own position and can't use China as an excuse. China will
not be an obstacle [to a deal]."
On Tuesday, China accused developed countries of
backsliding on what it said were their obligations to fight
climate change and warned that climate negotiations had
entered a critical stage.
In sharp comments made at a press briefing in Beijing, a
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said there had been
"some regression" on the part of developed countries on
their position regarding financial support. The change in
their position "will hamper the Copenhagen conference", she
China and the US - the world's two largest carbon polluters
- have waged a war of words at Copenhagen. They have
clashed on key issues such as how to share out the burden
of slashing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and whether the United
States owes developing countries a "climate debt".
Beijing says Western nations have built their prosperity on
fossil fuels and need to shoulder the responsibility for
reducing the growth of global GHG emissions. The
International Atomic Agency - an intergovernmental forum on
nuclear energy - however, projects that nearly all the
growth in those gases over the next two decades will come
from emerging economies and half of it from China.
The US has rejected the idea of "climate reparations" and
questioned the need for China - now the fastest-growing
economy in the world - to receive a portion of the rich
nations' funding to help developing countries mitigate
"I don't envision public funds - certainly not from the
United States - going to China," Todd Stern, the chief US
climate negotiator, told a press briefing in Copenhagen
last week. While poorer developing countries still needed
Western help to nurture clean-energy technologies, this was
no longer the case with China, he argued.
China has vowed to reduce carbon emissions per unit of
gross domestic product by 40% to 45% by 2020, but experts
say, given economic growth projections, its emissions could
still double compared to 2005 levels.
The country has appeared in Copenhagen championing the
interests of the developing nations but it has faced rows
among its own lobby. Dozens of the poorest countries led by
the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu have called for mandatory
caps on greenhouse gases for major emerging economies such
as China starting in 2013.
China has been consistently refusing binding emissions caps
for fears it would hurt its spectacular economic rise. It
reiterated this position in Copenhagen. But in a gesture
aimed at mending relations with its underdeveloped allies,
Beijing hinted it was willing to give up its share of
funding provided by rich nations to help poorer countries
tackle climate change.
"Financial resources for the efforts of developing
countries [to combat climate change are] a legal
obligation. That does not mean China will take a share
-probably not. We do not expect money will flow from the
US, Britain and others to China," He Yafei told the
Analysts believe the statement was a sign of Beijing's
unease over the fragile unity of developing countries and
the implications of the row for the progress of the talks.
"The climate talks will display China's new world view,"
insists Qing Hong, researcher with the Center for China and
Globalization, a Beijing-based think-tank.
"Contrary to some arguments, China is not always adhering
only to its own national interests. Quite the opposite,
China will show the international community that in the
case of climate change its considerations transcend its
national boundaries," he says.
(Inter Press Service)