October 11, 2010

China, US Play The Blame Game In Climate Stand-off

The final day of climate change talks found the United States and China blaming each other for blocking progress ahead of a major summit on global warming coming next month.

The two largest greenhouse gas polluters wrangled throughout the six-day UN talks in China last week, bringing on anger from environmentalists who said countries were worried more about self-interest than about the fate of the planet.

US climate representative Jonathan Pershing warned progress at the UN's annual climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, was in danger because of China's refusal to commit to eliminating greenhouse gases.

Delegates from more than 170 countries joined the latest of UN's long-running negotiations aimed at securing a binding global treaty on climate change. A new global treaty would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012 and aims to keep global warming below the threshold that scientists warn will cause catastrophic damage to the world's climate.

Government leaders failed to reach an agreement last year in Copenhagen as nations battled over who should carry more of the burden in reducing greenhouse gases.

The biggest problem was China's refusal, along with other developing nations, to commit through the UN process to cut their emissions, and to have those efforts monitored and verified.

China insisted all week that the United States and other rich nations should do much more to curb emissions, highlighting their historic responsibility for the problem. Su Wei, China's chief climate negotiator, said the US was throwing up smokescreens to hide its own inaction.

"It's not fair to criticize if you are not doing anything," he was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

The UN's climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said the falling-out has not derailed the Tianjin talks and that important progress had been made on specific issues. "I would dare say that this week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancun," she said.

Figueres said she was confident a plan by wealthy nations to give developing nations 30 billion dollars to help them cope with climate change would be finalized in Cancun, helping to build trust between the two sides.

"I have said and I will continue to say that fast-track finance is the golden key to Cancun. I am confident that the golden key will be dutifully unlocked," she told AFP.