Biggest emitter upbeat on accord

CLIFFORD COONAN in Beijing- The Irish Times Monday 21st December 2009

CHINA: CHINA, THE world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, gave a decidedly upbeat reading on the outcome of the Copenhagen climate conference that ended with an agreement that urges major polluters to make deeper emissions cuts, but does not require it.

Premier Wen Jiabao had brought “hope and confidence to the world” by attending the summit, foreign minister Yang Jiechi said in a statement.

“The Copenhagen conference is not a destination but a new beginning,” Mr Yang said, adding that the international climate talks had yielded “significant and positive” results.

The conference upheld the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” recognised by the Kyoto Protocol and had also made “a solid step forward” in promoting binding emissions cuts for developed countries and voluntary mitigating actions by developing countries.

The summit also produced important consensus on the key issues of long-term global emissions, funding and technology support to developing countries, and transparency. China has said it will rein in its greenhouse gas output, pledging to reduce its carbon intensity – its use of fossil fuels per unit of economic output – by 40 to 45 per cent.

“Developing and developed countries are very different in their historical emissions responsibilities and current emissions levels, and in their basic national characteristics and development stages,” Mr Yang said. “Therefore, they should shoulder different responsibilities and obligations in fighting climate change.”

The two weeks of talks were dominated by disputes between rich and poor countries over who would bankroll efforts to resolve climate change. There were also some highly public rows between the world’s biggest carbon polluters – China and the United States. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand action to cool an overheating planet.

The meeting ended on Saturday after 31 hours of negotiation to find a compromise. The accord gives billions of dollars in climate aid to poor nations but does not require the world’s major polluters to make deeper cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

The accord emerged after a last-gasp meeting between President Barack Obama and Mr Wen and the leaders of India, Brazil and South Africa.

The Irish Times - Monday, December 21, 2009