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22nd Oct 2020

Hedegaard hits back after US cables suggest climate skulduggery

  • Ms Hedegaard said the cables only presented one side of the picture (Photo: European Parliament)

The EU's top climate official has blasted WikiLeaks releases as one-sided and misleading after leaked cables suggested Europe and the US used money and pressure tactics to secure developing nation support for the Copenhagen Accord.

Speaking at a news conference in Cancun, Mexico, on Tuesday (7 December) where negotiators from roughly 200 nations are meeting for UN climate talks, Connie Hedegaard said she had met many officials from developing nations since the accord was agreed in Denmark last December, insisting that aid was not the only issue on the agenda.

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"I can only say that what I could read also in that [cable] is [a] one sided and selective report of what that conversation was all about," Ms Hedegaard said after she was asked about a meeting between her and US deputy special envoy for climate change Jonathan Pershing on 11 February.

A US diplomatic cable , leaked by whistleblower site WikiLeaks over the weekend, describes how Ms Hedegaard reportedly told the US official during their encounter that the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) countries "could be our best allies" given their need for financing.

But at the Cancun press conference the Danish politician denied it was all about using money to secure European aims.

"I think that one of the things that we've done from the European Union is to try to do a lot outreach to some of the least developed countries, some of the most vulnerable countries," she told journalists.

"For instance, I went myself this spring to the Maldives, to discuss with the Maldives exactly what could be the way forward. A lot of constructive countries we have been working with them … and our conversation definitely is not just about financing," she added.

Initially opposed to the Copenhagen Accord, the Maldives is one country that appeared to quickly embrace the document once aid pledges were given by richer countries. This, say some critics, amounts to climate bribery.

A second cable also suggests that the EU worked closely with the US to secure widespread support for the Copenhagen Accord, the 11th-hour deal hammered out in the dying stages of last December's climate meeting, under which countries made voluntary pledges to cut carbon emissions by certain amounts.

Although it contains some good aspects, environmentalists have criticsed the document as weakening the distinction between rich and poor nations, and undermining the UN's Kyoto Protocol which provides legally binding emission targets for rich signatories until 2012.

The EU has pushed for an extension to the Kyoto commitments (post 2012) during Cancun talks this week, while Japan, Russia and Canada have said they appose such a move.

In defending Europe's actions earlier this year, Ms Hedegaard said US cables only painted one side of the story.

"I'm not going into a lot of detailed things about these WikiLeaks documents. You can imagine that there is a conversation, some of it is sort of reported back home by the one side, but all the elements from the other side is not there," she said.

"So it makes not a lot of sense to go in and argue about what's in and not in. The fact is we have done a lot of outreach with developing countries, the most vulnerable countries," she added.

Speaking at a separate press conference in Cancun, immediately after the EU briefing, US climate envoy Todd Stern refused to be drawn on the WikiLeaks releases. "I have no comment and that's the US government positon. We don't comment on leaks of classified or private information," he said.

In a follow-up anecdote however, he described how the Norwegian environment minister, Erik Solheim, stood up at the Copenhagen climate talks last year and "blasted" an official from a developing country who brandished Norway's generous climate assistance as bribery.

The Norwegian official described how "you can't on the one hand ask for … climate assistance and then on the other hand turn around and accuse us of bribery," said Mr Stern, adding that he strongly supported this position, then and now.

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