Wednesday, February 24, 2010

China contributed immensely to Copenhagen

By Mathew Yakai

IN our usual email forum, a Papua New Guinea Student at Jilin University in China, Bernard Singu Yegiora made a remarkable comment regarding climate change and China’s engagement. I would like to adopt below.

“On the issue of climate change, bear in mind that China is a developing country, their foreign policy is centered on economic development. The whole issue of climate change is a constraint to their bid in developing. The reason behind developed countries proposing 80% can be explained using the 'kick the ladder effect'.

While our ancestors were roaming the bush of New Guinea in their traditional attire, the west or now known as the developed countries began their process of industrialization, after the industrial revolution.

They have now reached the roof top and have kicked the ladder making it difficult for countries like China and PNG to climb the ladder, or simply develop by industrializing. As such, modern scholars have called this global apartheid, and that is why China is vetoing for a 50% reduction in global emissions.

The blame for the damages done to the earth should be pointed at developed countries and the advent of the industrial revolution, which has dramatically changed history.

China is acting in a realist fashion but the dilemma is who should we blame for this pending global catastrophe which started in the 18th century? It will be very difficult to come up with a global consensus.”

Nevertheless, China is playing a major role, leading the developing countries. The issue of climate is a global concern. As a leading developing country with 1.3 billion people to feed, China is taking the leadership role in addressing the climate issue.

In the series of articles, this column will publish Chinas’ role, lead by Premier Wen Jiabao at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

On 19 December 2009, the Copenhagen climate change conference finally produced major and positive outcomes after complicated and tortuous negotiations.

The Copenhagen Accord issued at the conference firmly upheld the basic framework and principles established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, further clarified the due obligations and actions of the developed and developing countries respectively according to the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities", and reflected international consensus regarding the long-term goal for addressing climate change, financing, technology, transparency of actions and other issues.

From 16 to 18 December, in the nearly 60 hours Premier Wen Jiabao spent in Copenhagen, he held intensive talks and consultations with other leaders to drive the negotiation process forward. The traveling press corps with the Premier witnessed the roller-coaster, nail-biting negotiations at Copenhagen.

But more importantly, the press experienced the sincerity, confidence, resolve and effective efforts Premier Wen brought to Copenhagen, which fully demonstrated China's image as a responsible big country dedicated to development and cooperation.

In his important speech at the high-level segment of the conference, Premier Wen reiterated the consistent position of the Chinese government. He called on all sides to build consensus and strengthen cooperation to advance the historical process of combating climate change.

Confronted by the complicated situation in and outside the Bella Center, Premier Wen was undeterred. With the strongest political will and patience, he shuttled between participating leaders and engaged them in dialogue and consultations.

At the critical moment when the negotiations faced the risk of a breakdown, he personally talked to various parties and helped the conference reach the final accord with his painstaking and thoughtful efforts.

History will remember the important contribution of the Chinese government to the success of the Copenhagen conference.

"He who is cautious may seem timid in the beginning, but his mettle will shine through in the end." Always well prepared, Premier Wen Jiabao thought carefully on how to ensure a successful conference before leaving for Copenhagen.


The argument between developing and developed countries on global warming has grown ever more heated in recent years. As the largest developing nation, China has made enormous and effective efforts to conserve energy and control emissions.

On 26 November last year, the Chinese government announced the target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent from the 2005 level by 2020.

The announcement was widely applauded by the international community. It was also announced on that day that Premier Wen Jiabao would attend the Copenhagen conference.

After the opening of the conference on 7 December, Copenhagen became a stage of intense wrangling between national governments, interest groups, NGOs and research institutes.

But the unending arguments, talks and negotiations never seemed to have gotten very far and an enormous gulf remained between divergent positions. The clock was ticking, and a pervasive sense of pessimism and despair began to fill the conference center.

At 15:00 on the afternoon of 16 December, the plane carrying Premier Wen and the Chinese delegation took off from Beijing and started the journey to Copenhagen.

"It is a huge task to attend the conference on behalf of the Chinese government. I am deeply aware of the heavy responsibility upon me," Premier Wen said to the traveling press corps on board the plane.

"On my way to the airport, I thought of two ancient sayings. One is 'He who is cautious may seem timid in the beginning, but his mettle will shine through in the end', and the other is 'Thorough planning at the outset will serve one well in his ensuing endeavors'. In other words, if you think carefully as you embark on a mission, you will be able to act with courage and resolve."

In fact, the premier's journey to Copenhagen had started well before this day. In the run-up to the conference, he visited the China Meteorological Administration and had a number of telephone conversations with foreign leaders.


On 27-28 November, representatives of the BASIC countries, i.e. China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and Sudan as the chair of the Group of 77 held consultations in Beijing. Premier Wen met with the participating environment ministers or their representatives.

From 8 December onwards, as national delegations were engaged in tough negotiations in Copenhagen, Premier Wen talked by phone with the UN Secretary-General and the leaders of Britain, Germany, India, Brazil, South Africa, Denmark and Ethiopia. They had frank and in-depth conversations on some major issues concerning the conference.

On 11 December, Premier Wen made a visit to the China Meteorological Administration and convened a discussion with experts on climate change. During the meeting, he called for resolute and strong measures to meet the government's target for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Premier Wen had also followed closely developments at the Copenhagen conference after its opening. Soon after his plane took off from Beijing, he asked the press corps to come to the front cabin and shared his thoughts very frankly.

It was apparent that Premier Wen had already carefully thought about the complicated situation awaiting him. He said, "I am confident that with so many leaders converging on Copenhagen, the conference will be a fruitful one. But whatever may happen in Copenhagen, China will not change its action plan. Our voluntary mitigation target is non-negotiable and our determination to meet it will not waver," he told the press.

After this mid-air briefing, Premier Wen called a meeting of the accompanying ministers to analyze the position of various parties. Then, alone in his cabin, the premier looked out at the sea of clouds outside the plane, staring intensely, deep in thought.

It was not a light-hearted mission, he knew. So many things needed to be considered before the conference could be brought to a fruitful conclusion.

At 16:45 Beijing time, Premier Wen's plane touched down at Copenhagen airport. Snow was falling heavily and chill wind was howling: not all was quiet on this wintry evening in Copenhagen.


Everyone in the Chinese delegation was tired after a 10-hour flight that had crossed seven time zones and over 7,000 kilometers, but Premier Wen still decided to go straight to the Chinese embassy, where he would hear briefings on the latest developments and plan next steps. Over one hour had passed before he finally left the embassy and checked in at the Radisson Hotel.

"The most important thing is to build consensus quickly." - Confronted by a complicated situation, Premier Wen Jiabao worked with sincerity, resolve and confidence to mediate, communicate, coordinate, bridge differences and expand common ground.

At 6:00 on 17th, Premier Wen went to breakfast. He was briefed at the breakfast table. As the negotiations in Copenhagen involved 192 countries, the circumstances were changing every minute.

At 8:30, Premier Wen walked into the meeting room, brimming with energy and ready for a whole day of intense meetings. The first leader he met was Prime Minister Rasmussen of the host country Denmark.

At the outset, Premier Wen commended Denmark for its hard work in the run-up to the conference and pledged China's full support to the host in bringing about a successful outcome.

The Danish Prime Minister was somewhat relieved to hear these words. He talked about the deep rift among parties and the absence of a text that could serve as a basis for consultations. He was visibly worried about the negotiation process.

Note: The column thanked Zhao Cheng and Tian Fan (Xinhua News Agency and Wei Dongze (People’s Daily) for their contribution. Part two of the series will be published next Sunday. For comments, contact the writer on m_yakai@hotmail.com or SMS 71489901

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