Wednesday, February 24, 2010

China led developing countries in Copenhagen climate meeting.

By Mathew Yakai

THIS is the second part of the series of articles about China’s engagement at the Copenhagen climate change conference Dec 2009 led by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The Copenhagen conference finally produced major and positive outcomes after complicated and tortuous negotiations. China played a major role.

Premier Wen expressed full understanding of the pressure facing the host, Denmark. He attributed various divisions to four focal issues, namely, a basic text, financial support, the long-term target and MRV (measurable, reportable and verifiable).

He suggested that pragmatic efforts be made in accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" to build on the two draft texts presented by the chairs of the two Ad hoc Working Groups, lock up the consensus already achieved and leave the divisive elements to future deliberations.

He said this might be the only viable way, and a resolution thus reached could represent an outcome of the conference.

Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark thanked Premier Wen for his constructive proposal. He said if all other leaders could work as vigorously as the Chinese Premier, the conference would achieve success.

Premier Wen then met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ban was also gravely concerned about the stalled process and regarded a conference without any gains as unacceptable.

Premier Wen pointed out that it was unrealistic for the nearly 200 countries to patch up their wide differences in less than two days. The Chinese people and people across the globe all looked forward to a successful conference.

The most important thing at the moment was to build consensus quickly. The conference could opt for a political document that reflected the consensus of all parties aimed at affirming the political will, recognizing the existing achievements, and sending a message of confidence and hope to the world.

Premier Wen stressed that the drafting process and consultations must be open and transparent. The opinions of all parties must be duly solicited and the concerns of the developing countries in particular must be taken seriously. He expressed the hope that the United Nations would play an important role in this process. Ban nodded, absorbed in thought.

By now, Premier Wen had explained to both the host and the United Nations the overall considerations and operational recommendations of the Chinese government concerning the outcome of the conference. What happened later proved that Premier Wen's suggestions were forward-looking and workable.

At 11:00 that day, Premier Wen headed to the hotel where Brazilian President Lula da Silva stayed. President Lula had proposed a working breakfast among the leaders of BASIC countries, but that was cancelled due to technical difficulties with the Indian and South African leaders.

When Premier Wen learned this, he asked for a bilateral meeting with President Lula. The two old friends shook hands, hugged each other and started a cordial conversation.

They confirmed the broad common understanding between the two countries on climate change, and pledged to stand together with other developing countries to uphold shared interests while stepping up consultation and coordination with all relevant parties in order to play a positive role.

At noon, Premier Wen rushed back to the Radisson Hotel for a group meeting with President Nasheed of the Maldives and Prime Minister Thomas of Grenada representing small island developing states, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia representing Africa, Prime Minister Hasina of Bangladesh representing the least developed countries (LDCs), and the Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie representing the Group of 77.

As a developing country, China covered a historical journey similar to those of African countries, small island states and LDCs. Consequently, China and these countries felt close to each other and shared the same yearning for justice and fairness. The leaders sat in a circle and had a heart-to-heart talk.

Financial support was the top concern to these countries. A delegate from a major power had said earlier that money would not be given to China. In response to this remark, Premier Wen said that China had been calling on the developed countries to make good on their financial pledges, but China would never compete with other developing countries for even a single cent of financial support.

China would continue to provide assistance to LDCs both bilaterally and within the framework of the South-South cooperation, including material and capacity-building support for combating climate change.

Premier Wen had deep sympathies for small island states over their vulnerable ecosystems and fully understood their special requests for curbing global temperature rise.

He explained in great detail China's mitigation efforts and what China expected from the Copenhagen negotiations. As a demonstration of sincerity, Premier Wen expressed China's readiness to accommodate the concerns of the small island states on limiting global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050.

Premier Wen also pledged China's commitment to uphold the rights and interests of the whole developing world at the conference.

Premier Wen then invited the leaders to lunch, where they continued discussion. Their meeting, which lasted over two hours, was the longest Premier Wen had in Copenhagen.

The other leaders found Premier Wen's remarks fair and reasonable. They recognized the tremendous efforts China had made to tackle climate change and dismissed the accusations made by the developed countries as misplaced.

They held that China, like other developing countries, should not have its development space compromised in the course of addressing climate change. And they called on the developing countries to strengthen consultations and solidarity.

The UK, Germany and Japan, all developed countries, have mature technologies for energy conservation, environment protection and green economy. They want to play a leadership role in promoting international cooperation on climate change, but due to an inadequate understanding of the national conditions of developing countries, they have raised some unrealistic and unfair demands.

On the afternoon of Dec 17th 2009, Premier Wen had separate meetings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and discussed with them about relevant issues in a patient and thoughtful way.

Premier Wen pointed out that at this critical juncture, all parties should stop finger pointing. Still less should they engage in bargaining, as this would only waste time.

All parties should observe the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities", bear in mind the broader interests, quickly build consensus and shelve disputes, and work together for a successful outcome.

Premier Wen stressed the fact that China's voluntary mitigation target had no strings attached and was not pegged to the emissions reduction target of any other country. It was not negotiable as well.

Premier Wen said China would honor its words with action and would spare no effort to meet or even exceed the target, as this was in the interest of the Chinese people and people around the world.

China would like to carry out consultations and cooperation on increasing the transparency of its voluntary mitigation actions and steer its efforts towards holding the global temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius. This demonstrated China's utmost sincerity.

Premier Wen emphasized that the developing countries had the prime task of eradicating poverty and growing economy, but this should not be done along the old path of industrialization followed by developed countries and at the expense of resources and the environment.

Developed countries should appreciate and support this and honor their commitments on financial and technological assistance. Developing and developed countries should work closely together to bring about the best result possible out of the conference.

Despite differences over certain issues, all the talks were held in a frank and in-depth manner, because this was the only way to increase mutual understanding and expand common ground.

The meetings all went longer than originally planned. After seeing off Prime Minister Brown, Premier Wen apologized to the waiting German Chancellor Merkel, "Madam Chancellor, sorry to have kept you so long."

The chancellor replied with humor: When Prime Minister Brown bumped into her on his way out, he said exactly the same thing. People in the room burst into laughter.

As soon as the meetings came to a close, Premier Wen asked Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei to hold a press conference to give a detailed briefing on his meetings with various leaders and explain on what issues China had to stick to its position and on what other issues China would be ready to show flexibility.

More than 200 Chinese and foreign journalists attended the press conference and they swiftly reported to the world China's latest position and its communications with other parties. This was a vivid demonstration of China's commitment to openness and transparency.

Note: The column thanked Zhao Cheng and Tian Fan (Xinhua News Agency and Wei Dongze (People’s Daily) for their contribution. Part three 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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