Thursday, February 11, 2010

China vs. the US Take Two

An article in today's Guardian, based on a leaked internal document from a Chinese government think tank written just after Copenhagen, provides new insight into the Chinese view of the negotiations. And what we see isn't pretty. Among the highlights of the document as reported in the Guardian:

  • "the overall interests of developing countries have been defended" by (China) resisting a rich nation "conspiracy" to abandon the Kyoto protocol, and with it the legal distinction between rich nations that must cut carbon emissions and developing nations for whom action is not compulsory.
  • "A conspiracy by developed nations to divide the camp of developing nations [was] a success," it said, citing the Small Island States' demand that the Basic group of nations - Brazil, South Africa, India, China - impose mandatory emission reductions.
  • The paper is scathing about the US-led "umbrella group", which it says adopted a position of inaction.
  • Canada "was devoted to conniving" to convince the world that its pledge of a 3% emissions reduction between 1990 and 2020 is significant, while having no intention of meeting its Kyoto protocol target of 6%.
  • The 'conspiracy to divide developing world' will make future talks harder.

Anyone remotely familiar with Chinese rhetoric (China is great, Tibet is great, China and Tibet together is super great!) recognizes that their statements can't always be taken at face value. But this is an internal document and the Chinese are generally recognized as subtle interpreters of diplomatic process. Thus, it is worrying that they perceive the actions of the SIDS as the product of manipulation rather than what they obviously were -- a last gasp, self interested attempt to prevent their countries from disappearing under a rising sea. This isn't to say that Britain and the US didn't use the SIDS position as a mechanism to put pressure on China, they clearly did. But someone voluntarily changing sides isn't the same as manipulation. All this is further evidence supporting my earlier summary of the real issue that the global community will need to resolve if it expects to get an effective climate change policy.

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