Thursday, February 25, 2010

The "Deep Divide" stays deep

Ever the pessimist this blog has long expounded the fact that the developed and developing countries are so far apart on climate change that there is no chance of a meaningful deal. The Copenhagen failure was the result and was expected.

China's Special Representative for Climate Change Negotiations, Yu Qingtai, makes the point very clearly.

I am afraid I can do nothing but agree with the opening statement "there is little hope in overcoming the disagreements on how to fight climate change".

The bottom line is that the world needs a G-2 or G-3 agreement and that is what I believe to be most likely . China and the US will strike their own deal that in the end might just save the planet. The EU could be included.

The Chinese national interest is what matters. All we can hope for is that pollution grows more slowly that GDP. This should happen with technological change and the composition of production.

The joker is the pack is that emissions also harm China's national interest. This is ultimately the only thing that will bring them to the negotiating table. Remember that US emissions will also harm China more than the US.

I will post up the excellent world bank climate review later.

China Envoy Says Deep Divides Threaten Climate Talks [PlanetArk]

BEIJING - Rich and developing countries have little hope of overcoming key disagreements over how to fight global warming, China's climate change ambassador said on Wednesday, warning of a year of troubled negotiations.

China's Special Representative for Climate Change Negotiations, Yu Qingtai, said as nations seek a new global treaty on climate change by the end of 2010, major players are unlikely to budge on the issues that stymied stronger agreement at the contentious Copenhagen climate summit in late 2009.

"There may be some adjustments and shifts in the positions and tactics of the various sides, but I personally believe that on some core issues, the positions of the major parties will not undergo any substantive changes," Yu said at a meeting in Beijing on China's climate change policies.

After they failed to agree on a comprehensive pact at Copenhagen, negotiators now hope to put together a binding treaty through meetings culminating in Mexico late this year.

Yu was not hopeful.

"We can expect that in the coming year, there'll still be a mix of consensus and conflict, of cooperation and struggle, on the stage of climate diplomacy," he said. "The progress of the international negotiations faces very many difficulties."

Yu's comments added to recent gloomy forecasts for the climate negotiations, an issue that could add to tensions with the United States.

Agreeing a U.N. climate treaty in 2010 will be "very difficult," the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, Yvo de Boer, said on Tuesday.


China has passed the United States to become the biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. Yet China is a developing country with average greenhouse gas output per person far lower than in wealthy countries.

That dual status has put Beijing at the heart of disputes with the United States, European Union and other rich economies about how developed and big developing countries should share out burdens for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Also crucial is how much international scrutiny should apply to the emissions actions of big developing nations.

In Copenhagen, China and other poorer countries accused the West of offering too little in the way of emissions cuts and climate funds and technology to the Third World.

Britain, Sweden and other countries accused China of obstructing stronger agreement at the Copenhagen summit, which ended with a non-binding accord.

China should not expect wealthy countries to change their tune this year, said Yu.

"I believe that there won't be any substantive change in the developed countries' settled policy of shifting blame to the developing countries," he said.

"They will continue pressuring the developing countries to shoulder unreasonable responsibilities."

The speeches by Yu and other Chinese climate policy officials were published online by an official news website (

Yu said China and other developing countries would defend their right to grow their economies without taking on internationally binding emissions targets.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said on Tuesday he was committed to fighting climate change and pressing forward with a domestic goal to cut carbon intensity.

China has vowed to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas from human activity -- emitted to create each unit of economic worth by 40-45 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels.

This goal would let China's greenhouse gas emissions keep rising, but more slowly than economic growth.

But Hu also said Beijing was committed to the "common but differentiated" principle: that developing countries should take action to fight climate change, but not assume the internationally binding emissions targets that developed countries must shoulder under U.N.-backed climate treaties.

Yu said negotiators should not expect China to budge.

"When it comes to responsibilities that we should not assume, that harm our national interests, we will resolutely hold out, no matter how much pressure there is in the negotiations," said Yu.


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