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Saturday, December 19, 2009

China & US clash as Cop15 reaches 'deal'

A major rift formed last night between the US and China after President Obama inferred the Chinese were not doing enough to formulate a meaningful deal. In his short address before delegates yesterday Obama said, "All major economies must put forward decisive targets to cut their emissions." Although China was not mentioned by named it was widely seen as a swipe at China. "We must...review whether we're keeping our commitments and exchange information in a transparent manner," Obama added. This was too much for the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao who left the conference hall and returned to his hotel. As Obama later attended a joint meeting with the Chinese delegation he found himself talking not to the Chinese prime minister but instead a number of low level delegates.

There were also battles been Chinese and US media as they tried to enter the negotiating room. CNN reported that as officials and journalists attempted to enter a room where President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao were planning to meet in Copenhagen they were caught in a chaotic scene that left nearly the entire US press pool outside. According to the news channel White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough were also nearly prevented from entering. Gibbs attempted to gain access for American reporters after Chinese cameramen, photographers and journalists pushed into the room. However, Chinese security behind then blocked the entrance to US media attending the event. To exclamations from the Chinese of "no photo" and "no press," Gibbs responded, "Hold on. Hold. I've got to get my American guys in because everybody else got in…. My guys have to get just like your guys got in. This is a joint meeting, and my guys get in or we're leaving. …" According to the report one US photographer was able to gain access to the room though no US television or print reporters were allowed in to cover the event.

As for Obama he also seemed put out by the proceedings. On finding that Wen Jiabao was absent he reportedly snapped, "It would be nice to negotiate with somebody who can make political decisions." Last ditch efforts were being made last night to bring the two leaders together. But the intransigence by the Chinese to further their commitment to cut emissions remains a major issues. China's chief negotiator Su Wei has insisted China is "fully committed" to creating a meaningful deal. However, this is tempered by China's insistence on setting its own framework and rules. There is little movement by China in offering to set emissions targets, and little transparency in what it intends to do. Even if a deal is made, Obama is likely to anger the Chinese further by suggesting the use of US satellites to monitor China's CO2 emissions and check its compliance to any agreed measures. 

In other quarters there has also been a lack of major commitment. The EU has backed away from reducing its emissions from 20% to 30%. In addition some European leaders have added their voice to a chorus of criticism directed at China for not doing enough. Last night French president Nicholas Sarkozy pointed a finger at China saying that they were responsible for hold up a deal. Amongst other nations there was a general feeling that any deal would not amount to much with particularly critical statements coming from Brazil and Venezuela. 

By the time ran out at the climate summit Obama announced that he had made a "meaningful and unprecedented" climate change deal with China and other key nations that was expected to be sealed before the president headed home from the Copenhagen summit late Friday. "For the first time in history, all major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change," Obama told reporters.

The president said he met with leaders from India, China, Brazil and South Africa, and said, "we agreed ... to set a mitigation target to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius."

However, it's a non-binding goal, and the emissions targets "will not be by themselves sufficient to get to where we need to get by 2050," Obama declared. It was, he added, a first step, and that for many countries "this is going to be the first time in which even voluntary they offered up mitigation targets." For many environmentalists, it is too little too late [Independent / BBC / CNN]

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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