28th Jan 2023

China warns EU over climate talks

China has warned the European Union not to abandon the principle that rich nations bear a heavier burden in tackling climate change than their developing world counterparts.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao telephoned European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday (2 November) to say that for a successful deal to be reached at December's UN climate conference in Copenhagen, technology transfer and sufficient funding from the global north is required.

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  • Technology transfer and 'common but differentiated responsibilities' are the key, says Mr Wen (Photo: Dutch EU Presidency)

"Emphasis should be put on making clear and detailed arrangements for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financing," Mr Wen told the commission president.

It is understood that while China, as a developing nation, has been pressing for a climate finance deal that would see substantial sums flow to the global south for climate adaptation and mitigation, as a wealthier emerging nation that has less need of the cash, the Middle Kingdom is in fact most interested in technology transfer.

However, the Chinese leader also reminded Mr Barroso that it is for the developed world to take on binding emission reduction commitments while the developing world takes action, but without binding targets.

"The key to success at the conference is to uphold the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol, the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibilities' and the authorisation of the Bali Road Map," he said, according to a statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

While seemingly an uncontroversial and even bland phrase, "common but differentiated responsibilities" goes to the heart of the disagreement between developed and developing countries over climate negotiations.

Developing nations, including China, are keen to keep the Kyoto Protocol beyond its 2012 expiry date because of its insistence that while every nation has a responsibility to combat climate change, the burden for the industrialised north, which created the problem, is heavier.

The United States meanwhile wants a focus on the big emitters of today, including China, rather than historical emissions, and prefers an abandonment of the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" that is contained in the Kyoto pact.

The EU says it backs a continuance of the Kyoto Protocol, but developing countries say this is just rhetoric and that in the talks, Brussels is backing the US position.

The issue blew up at the last UN talks in Bangkok in September when Canada suggested scrapping Kyoto and starting afresh with a new framework for talks. A number of negotiators from developing countries walked out as the North Amercian delegation made its address.

Mr Wen also told Mr Barroso that his country, which will not back binding emission reduction targets for itself, is however willing to embrace a domestic plan for tackling climate change.

The plan would involve integrating climate change action into its economic and social development plan, implementing and improving the National Climate Change Programme, promoting a green economy, and boosting its ability to adapt to climate change.

For his part, the European leader told Mr Wen: "The EU hopes to strengthen co-ordination and co-operation with China in order to ensure the success of the Copenhagen meeting," according to the Chinese statement.

"The EU hopes to make common efforts with China to push co-operation to a new level."

The conversation took place as negotiators from 191 countries arrived in Barcelona on Monday for the final international climate negotiations ahead of December's UN conference.

Connie Hedegaard, the Danish climate and energy minister of climate and energy, said: "The world is watching. The world is waiting."

She warned against a fudge in December as talks go down to the wire.

"Our ambition must be not to accept a compromise that comes short of what science has told us in clear and compelling terms: Not to accept some short political statement or hollow declaration," she said.


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