CLIMATE CHANGE talks in the Chinese city of Tianjin have settled into a familiar face-off between the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, China, and the world’s richest country, the United States. Thousands of negotiators from 194 countries are meeting in the northern Chinese city to hammer out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the UN treaty on fighting global warming, which expires in 2012. It is a precursor to higher-level talks in Cancún, Mexico, at the end of the year.
The top negotiator for China, which is also the world’s fastest growing economy, said his country was still a developing nation and it was unreasonable to expect it to set a limit for its greenhouse gas emissions while rich economies failed to cut emissions. “A rise in greenhouse gases is necessary and, it should be said, reasonable,” said deputy minister Xie Zhenhua. “The key is that we must adopt effective measures to control the rate of growth . . . The more money they provide, or the earlier the money arrives, the sooner we should be able to pass the emissions peak,” he said.
He reiterated China’s key argument, that it is unfair for countries where average annual per capita GDP is more than $40,000 (€28,700), to fail to meet their emissions peak while complaining about countries where GDP per person was just over $3,000. Tensions between the US and China also contributed to Beijing’s perceived scuttling of any resolution at the Copenhagen talks on climate change. Those unsuccessful and fraught talks produced a non-binding accord that later recorded the emissions pledges of participant countries. Jonathan Pershing, US deputy special envoy for climate change, acknowledged the difficulties between China and the US and said there was less agreement than had been hoped for at this stage. “It’s going to require a lot of work to get to some significant outcome . . . which then leads us into a significant outcome in Cancún.”
The Copenhagen talks were so bitter that the overall atmosphere has been soured, and expectations are low of any kind of meaningful outcome to the Tianjin talks. Wary of a deadlock that could derail Cancún talks before they even began, the UN and Mexico have been trying to get a deal on less controversial issues.
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