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China and Copenhagen Conference
----the untold truth in the home of fairy tales

The United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 7-19 December and the high-level event was held during the last two days of the Conference. I wish to take this space to share with dear Batswana readers China’s views on the outcome and what efforts had done by China to ensure success of the conference.

The international and local press have made all kinds of comments on the outcomes of the conference. I believe it is fair to say that thanks to the hard efforts of all parties, the conference produced important and positive outcomes.

First, it firmly upheld the framework and the host of principles established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, particularly the principle of “Common but differentiated responsibilities”.

Second, it was because of this conference that both developed and developing countries had set out some targets and taken new actions to address climate change. Developed countries set out mandatory emission reduction targets as required by the Kyoto Protocol while developing countries put forward voluntary mitigation actions.

Third, some initial consensuses were reached on major issues in climate change negotiations which were deeply divided by related parties in the past few years. For instance, it was agreed that global temperature should not rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. Developed countries have already committed a target to fund the developing countries, namely, providing US﹩10 billion a year up to 2012, which will total US﹩30 billion. They have also pledged to mobilize US﹩100 billion a year by 2020. Though the numbers are not that significant and in China’s view are not enough, they do mark a step forward. It was also agreed that a mechanism should be set up for technology transfer. As for the issue of transparency, according to the provisions of the Convention, the Protocol and the Bali Action Plan, the emission reduction targets set by developed countries are mandatory and should be subject to “MRV”, which stands for “measurable, reportable and verifiable”. The financial and technological support provided by developed countries to developing countries also should be subject to “MRV”. For developing countries, their mitigation actions can be divided into two categories. International “MRV” is only required for actions launched with international financial and technical support, not for the voluntary actions taken by developing countries with their own resources. However, in order to increase transparency and openness, a fairly good proposal was put forward on this matter: countries will report their respective actions and then there will be a process of international consultations and analysis. It is fair to say that those outcomes have not come easily and they are the result of a compromise of all parties.

Generally speaking, the Copenhagen Conference should be viewed as just one stop in the journey of the international community to tackle climate change. We should go still further. This is only a new beginning. As a responsible developing country, China made great efforts to push forward positive outcomes. I hereby would like to tell our Botswana friends some backstage stories of China during the conference.

China takes the issue of climate change and the conference very seriously. Premier Wen Jiabao attended the conference on behalf of the Chinese government, which fully shows our seriousness. We can tell the world proudly that China has made important contribution to the Copenhagen Conference. Before attending the conference, Premier Wen talked over the phone with leaders of India, Brazil, South Africa, Ethiopia, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Secretary General of UN. He had candid, open and in-depth exchange of views with them on some major issues concerning the conference. Premier Wen arrived in Copenhagen on the evening of 16 December, and started intensive diplomatic interactions and summit diplomacy on the early morning of next day. He first met with Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen, and followed by leaders of India, Brazil, South Africa, the United States, Germany, the UK and some small island states, as well as representatives of the least developed countries and leaders of other African countries. Premier Wen told the leaders that countries should stop blaming each other. Rather, they should bear in mind the larger picture of an international response to climate change, accommodate each other’s concerns, adhere to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, speedily build consensus, seek common ground while reserving differences and advance the negotiations as quickly and effectively as possible. What we need to send to the world is a message of hope and confidence.

It is worth mentioning that premier Wen had the longest meeting with leaders of the small island states, the least developed countries and African countries. He listened carefully to their views and concerns, since these countries do have special concerns over funding and control of global temperature rise. Premier Wen expressed full sympathy and understanding for their concerns and supported their legitimate demand. More importantly, although China, as a developing country, is not obligated to provide financial support on climate change, Premier Wen reaffirmed that China is ready to continue give support and assistance to these countries under the framework of South-South cooperation and through bilateral channels. So the stance of China is crystal clear.

I am happy to note that China’s efforts had helped produce the final outcomes of the conference and the Copenhagen Accord in spite of such intricate and complex situation. China made important contribution to the success of the conference. As you all know, parties were sharply divided in their respective positions. Commitments made by developed countries on issues such as emission reduction and financial support fell short of the expectations of the international community. Moreover, they even linked their actions and commitments with the actions of developing countries, which was totally unfair. Consequently, the negotiations proved to be difficult and were deadlocked several times. In the last two days, people felt hopeless on many occasions and worries that the conference might end without yielding a result. Under such circumstances, China and some other countries used their good offices, which was crucial. We stressed time and again that China had never said that we hoped to see the conference fail. What we had been saying instead was we would do whatever we could to make the conference a success.

Let me give you a good example to illustrate how China did it at critical junctures, which is also an untold diplomatic story. People headed into negotiations when they got hold of the draft Accord on the evening of the 17th and worked deep into the night. The negotiations went on and on until they were deadlocked once again. A sense of despair almost prevailed on the afternoon of the 18th. I would say the problem mainly lied with developed countries. In the final stage, the conference would have concluded at three or four o’clock in the afternoon as scheduled, but there was no result then. T he focus of the contention then was on how to define global long-term targets, whether countries should commit to a 50% cut in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; and on whether voluntary mitigation actions by developing countries should be verifiable. On these key issues, China again played a constructive role. There was no G2 here and it does not square with the fact to claim that China and the United States did this or that. China’s constructive role was reflected in the fact that at the point and time, Premier Wen made a personal effort to have another round of consultations with leaders of other countries, such as BASIC, G77 and African countries. At some later points, US President Obama on his own initiative asked to join the BASIC discussions. Leaders of the five countries had very hard discussions on these issues and various parties all showed some flexibility. Finally, some consensus was built on the difficult issues, saving the conference from falling apart. I think China did play a constructive role of mediation.

You can see very well that after all these efforts; the final outcomes may be the only viable ones. Although the Copenhagen Accord is neither legally binding nor fully satisfactory, I still believe that given the circumstances I explained, it was the best result we may get. With this Accord, we can continue to move forward. Despite criticisms and concerns of all sorts, we will come to an objection and fair conclusion if we adopt an objective perspective, i.e. the conference produced positive and important outcomes.

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