Thursday, 11 February 2010


China's fears of rich nation 'climate conspiracy' at Copenhagen revealed

'Conspiracy to divide developing world' will make future
talks harder, says leaked government report

The Guardian

Rich nations furthered their "conspiracy to divide the
developing world" at December's UN climate summit in
Copenhagen, while Canada "connived" and the EU acted "to
please the United States", according to an internal
document from a Chinese government thinktank obtained by
the Guardian.

The document, which was written in the immediate aftermath
of Copenhagen but has only now come to light, provides the
most candid insight yet into Chinese thinking on the
fraught summit.

"It was unprecedented for a conference negotiating process
to be so complicated, for the arguments to be so intense,
for the disputes to be so wide and for progress to be so
slow," notes the special report. "There was criticism and
praise from all sides, but future negotiations will be more

The authors - all members of a government environmental
research institute - were not part of the Chinese
negotiating team, but their paper was commissioned by the
environment ministry and circulated internally to the
minister, vice-ministers and department chiefs in the days
after the conference. The ministry currently plays only a
marginal role in climate policy making but many of the
paper's observations were echoed by China's chief climate
negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, in a recent speech given at
Beijing University.

The authors were downbeat about the prospects for
international talks and China's position within them.
"China, which was in the conference spotlight, played an
active and constructive role, but was also under huge
international pressure. It is predictable that our country
will face a tougher challenge in future climate talks," it

Analysing international reaction to Copenhagen, the paper
lists a selection of responses from the UN
secretary-general, the Chinese foreign minister, the
European commissioner, prominent NGOs and major media
organisations, including the Guardian. It was written
before the publication of the most strident criticisms of
China's tactics by Mark Lynas, climate change adviser to
the Maldives, and the UK climate and energy secretary, Ed

Contrary to those views, the paper argues that the primary
goal of China's negotiators was not to spoil the summit,
but to resist a deal from rich nations that would put an
unacceptable burden on China and other developing

In their evaluation of the outcome, the officials' top
point is that "the overall interests of developing
countries have been defended" by resisting a rich nation
"conspiracy" to abandon the Kyoto protocol, and with it the
legal distinction between rich nations that must cut carbon
emissions and developing nations for whom action is not

The internal report acknowledges that unity among China's
traditional allies in the developing world became harder to
maintain in Copenhagen. "A conspiracy by developed nations
to divide the camp of developing nations [was] a success,"
it said, citing the Small Island States' demand that the
Basic group of nations - Brazil, South Africa, India, China
- impose mandatory emission reductions.

The paper is scathing about the US-led "umbrella group",
which it says adopted a position of inaction. Canada, it
says, "was devoted to conniving" to convince the world that
its pledge of a 3% emissions reduction between 1990 and
2020 is significant, while having no intention of meeting
its Kyoto protocol target of 6%.

There are no comforting words for the European Union, which
used to pride itself on playing a leadership role in
climate talks. "Copenhagen was a setback for the EU", the
authors say, in part because Europe "suggested the
abandonment of the Kyoto protocol in order to please the
US." The ministry has not responded to the Guardian's
request for a comment on the leaked paper.

The authors note that the Copenhagen accord which emerged
from the summit was not legally binding and lacked a global
target for emissions. But it says that overall the accord
was a "step forward", noting progress on a consensus to
limit global warming within 2C, progress on the funding by
rich nations of climate change adaptation measures in
poorer nations and a "last minute" compromise by developing
nations on the verification of their carbon pledges.

Lynas, who was present at many of the key negotiating
sessions, said: "It's astonishing that this document
suggests the Chinese really believes the absurd conspiracy
theory that small island states were being played like
puppets by rich countries. The truth is that the small
island states and most vulnerable countries want China and
its allies to cut their emissions because without these
cuts they will not survive. Bluntly put, China is the
world's No1 emitter, and if China does not reduce its
emissions by at least half by mid-century, then countries
like the Maldives will go under."

He added: "I think these claims of conspiracy are just a
bullying tactic, to force more progressive developing
countries back into line in case they too start demanding
more serious action by China."

Speaking last month, China's chief climate negotiator, Xie
- who also serves as vice-minister of the National
Development and Reform commission which controls China's
climate policy - also referred to the pressure from small
island nations. "The rich nations were completely trying to
make conflict among developing countries," he said.

He also described the "international fight on climate
change" as a contest for economic development space and
stressed that the way forward for China was to put more
effort into building a low-carbon economy. "Countries with
low-carbon industries will have a developmental advantage,"
said Xie. "Some people believe this is a global competition
as significant as the space race in the cold war. "

The concluding section of the leaked document proposes a
series of constructive initiatives. In what appears to be a
bid by the environment ministry to play a greater role in
carrying out climate-related policy, the report suggests
amending air pollution control laws to include greenhouse
gas emissions.

The official US version about what happened at Copenhagen
is also harsh. Todd Stern, the state department climate
change envoy, said this week that the summit "a snarling,
aggravated, chaotic event." But America attributes the
difficulties to a central divide between those countries -
led by China - insisting rich countries bear the entire
burden of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the
position held by the US that rapidly emerging countries
must also take action. Stern suggested the divide had not
been bridged. China, along with India, South Africa and
Brazil, had been "ambiguous" in its follow-up commitments
to the accord.

Tom Burke, the influential environmentalist and a founder
of E3G consultants, said: "There was indeed a lot of work
done to get developing nations to put pressure on China.
[But] it was not a conspiracy of any kind unfortunately as
Britain was acting entirely alone on this front. Neither
our EU allies nor the US mounted any kind of diplomatic
effort. Pretty well everyone in Copenhagen, not just the
developed countries, complained about China's blocking

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