Climate tensions resurface as US clashes with China
Jonathan WattsOctober 8, 2010
TIANJIN: The world's two biggest greenhouse gas emitters have clashed at United Nations talks in China.
A US climate envoy accused China's negotiators of trying to renegotiate last year's global climate agreement, and threatened to pursue alternatives to the UN process. China's top negotiator retaliated by saying the stance of ''a developed country I won't name'' was ''quite unacceptable''.
The US deputy special envoy for climate change, Jonathan Pershing, said the first three days of talks in Tianjin were frustrating because participants were ''relitigating'' old arguments about procedure rather than building on the Copenhagen Accord.
His comment underlines wide differences despite efforts to identify common ground this week so that a partial agreement can be signed at a ministers' meeting in Cancun, Mexico, to start next month.
Mr Pershing was concerned no agreement might be reached in Mexico.
Echoing comments from European Union negotiators, he said it could damage the UN system.
''It something to be considered seriously, because the process is going to be very hard-pressed to continue to meet and to continue to have these enormous sessions with a lot of people travelling to them unless we can use the process to good effect,'' he said. ''It may mean that we don't use this process exclusively as the way to move forward.''
While there is no suggestion of a full withdrawal from the UN process, the US appears to have hardened its position since the meeting in Copenhagen last December amid rising domestic political pressure and the absence of climate legislation.
China has responded in kind. Dropping the diplomatic language that characterised public statements on the first two days, Xie Zhenhua, the head of the host's negotiating team, made little attempt to conceal the target of his frustration.
''A developed country I won't name hasn't done a job for itself,'' he said.
''It has not provided financing or technology to other countries, yet it asks them to accept stringent monitoring and voluntary domestic actions. It's totally outrageous. It's quite unacceptable.''
There were other signs of stress at the halfway point, when the calm of the first three days gave way to heated exchanges during a stocktaking session.
A list of objectives for an agreement at Cancun, compiled by the chairman of the session, was denounced by China and other developing nations as premature and unbalanced.
Progress was registered on the issues of forestry, technology transfer and financing for poor nations to cope with climate change but developing nations blocked discussions on the key topic of emission reduction targets.
European officials described the tactics as inexplicable. ''We are losing a tremendously important issue,'' said Jurgen Lefevere, a climate strategy adviser to the European Commission. ''The Cancun target should be to anchor the targets pledged so far, to get them on a paper with a UN heading.''
Poorer nations are reluctant to have their pledges mixed with those of richer nations, particularly given the political uncertainty about the ability of the US to achieve its goals.
Guardian News & Media