The Australian pretty much spells it out. There are many salient points relating to Chinese tactics in Copenhagen, which explains the length of material quoted. But it’s well worth reading (my emphasis in bold):
The deal itself was anything but historic. But the implications of how the Chinese handled this negotiation well might be.
In a disastrous result for the world’s environment and for 19 years of difficult and painstaking environmental diplomacy, China undoubtedly won.
Chinese chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua said China was leaving Copenhagen “happy”, before walking out of the Bella conference centre late on Friday night with his clearly cheerful team .
They are about the only people in the world who are happy about Copenhagen’s failure, except perhaps those who are sceptical about the science of global warming and who therefore think global emission reduction efforts are not necessary in the first place.
Part of the problem was the complete refusal of the Chinese to engage in the talks.
The conference had been bogged down for almost two weeks by procedural blocking tactics by developing countries and China, which senior negotiators believe were almost entirely engineered by the Chinese.
Despite the fact that the “texts” that negotiators had worked on for more than two years were hopelessly far from agreed, China and the G77 block of developing nations resisted all attempts to bring politicians into the talks.
They skilfully exploited heavy-handed tactics by the Danish presidency to achieve a political agreement by describing it as a plot to “kill” the Kyoto Protocol, and were strongly supported by many of the environmental and aid activists at the conference, who in turn provided sound grabs to the assembled world media.
Initially these tactics were seen by negotiators as a strategy by China to force through a more favourable deal in the final days as negotiators grew more and more tired and desperate for a deal and more intent upon getting home for Christmas.
But when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who was already in Copenhagen, refused to attend the Friday morning talks and was represented by China’s third-ranking official instead, negotiators realised they were dealing with something far more serious.
It was a snub to the US President that deeply angered US and European negotiators because it subverted the purpose of the meeting to crunch a leaders-level deal.
Making progress even harder was the insistence by the G77 group of developing nations that its hardline negotiators, including Sudanese ambassador Lumumba Di-Aping who has now twice likened developed countries’ attitudes towards climate change to Nazism, should be in the room.
In his speech, Obama repeated the demand that developing nations’ emission reduction promises had to be verifiable, a demand China was fiercely resisting in the grounds that it was an assault on its sovereignty.
“Without any accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page,” Obama said, reportedly offending the Chinese Premier so much that he returned to his hotel.
And Wen did not show again for another leaders-level meeting after the speeches, sending an even lower level official.
When the President and the Premier finally met bilaterally there was an altercation between officials over access for each state’s media.
Finally, late in the day Obama and Clinton met the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa and clinched the “Copenhagen Accord”. According to some reports, quoting unnamed US officials, that meeting only came about because the Americans barged in on a gathering of the developing nation leaders and insisted on taking part.
In any event, having refused to engage in political-level discussions for two weeks on the grounds that everything had to be done by consensus and with the democratic inclusion of all 192 parties to the talks, at the eleventh hour the Chinese did do a deal with just a handful of the most powerful nations in the world.
And that deal protected its own interests, setting back international efforts to put Chinese and Indian emission reduction targets into an international legally binding treaty and weakening demands for international verification.
But it did not protect the interests of the developing countries who had been supporting the Chinese blocking tactics all through the conference, because it did not achieve deeper emission cuts from the main emitters that came anywhere close to what will be needed to contain rising world temperatures.
In fact it achieved a deal far weaker than the worst-case scenarios that might have been imagined when delegates arrived two weeks before.
Even the crucial timetable to achieve a legally binding treaty by 2010 was taken out at the insistence of the Chinese, who said they would otherwise reject the pact.
The powerful G77 block had already fractured during these talks, with developed nations including Australia putting in a lot of effort to convince countries that their best interests did not lie in continuing to be allied with China.
As they left, Copenhagen negotiators were wondering whether, having been abandoned so dramatically, China’s allies will trust the superpower again. It appeared the fracturing of the G77 may have become a permanent fissure.
They were also questioning why China had taken the attitude that it did.
No one was asking China to do anything more than the energy-intensity based emission reduction targets that it had voluntarily announced a few weeks before the negotiations began.
And while there are political and cultural reasons for China to have particular sensitivities about questions of sovereignty, they have not prevented China from participating in verification regimes in other kinds of international agreements.
Nor was it apparently a tactic to secure greater concessions from the US, such as an improvement in its emissions reduction target of 17 per cent by 2020 based on 2005 levels, because these talks never got down to the details.
The endless debate about process, the endless argument about whether or not to talk about a deal, the endless rhetoric about the historical responsibility of the West, the rants about the evils of the capitalist system, meant there was no real top-level negotiation about what emission targets each country would take on.
This negotiation never really got to discover each nation’s bottom line. Business representatives wandered somewhat aimlessly around the conference centre because there wasn’t really a debate in which they could become engaged.
In the end, it probably came down to the fact that China won either way. If a deal collapsed, then they were off the hook of ever having to commit to legally binding targets, If the tactics succeeded in watering down a deal, then a legally binding target could still be shoved off for years.
Of course, among the protesters the US got the blame. As exhausted delegates finally left the Bella Centre they were confronted with a small band of demonstrators bearing posters of Obama with the slogan “climate shame” across his forehead.
But according to the negotiators who ploughed through these past two weeks of bitter negotiations in the bitterly cold Danish winter, China should also take a large share of the opprobrium. Climate is shaping as an issue that will test how China deals with the international responsibilities that sit alongside its emerging superpower status.
In Copenhagen [China] failed that test.
It’s almost as if this outcome was predictable.
Hat tip to contributor Neddy – everyone should read this Guardian reporter’s account of exactly how China deliberately derailed the climate talks. Truly worrying stuff, not least because its actions were clearly predetermined.
Danwei: A bit of media speculation frenzy has been caused by Mark Lynas’ article published in The Guardian, where he claims that China refused to agree on targets and intentionally humiliated Obama during Copenhagen’s final meetings. Should we trust his account or just see it as one voice in a cacophony? What’s your take?
JW: Lynas has given a partial view from the inside. It is fascinating, but we will need a lot more than this to build up a full picture of what happened. The post-conference blame game is now well underway. Europe, and the UK in particular, have come out of Copenhagen with guns blazing. They are frustrated because their strategy for the conference fell apart almost from day one.
Their plan had been for the Danish hosts to introduce a compromise deal at some point early in the talks. About a dozen countries, including China, India and Sudan, had been consulted about this in advance, according to one European negotiator. But this strategy collapsed when someone leaked the “Danish Draft” to my Guardian colleague John Vidal. Nations that were not part of the consultation were furious. The authority of the chair was undermined. From then on, the talks ground to a halt. Almost the entire two weeks was wasted as a result.
Was China to blame? Well, there is no smoking gun. The killing of the Danish draft served the interests not only of China, but also other nations such as India that were determined to block any proposal that might constrain their future growth. Nonetheless, China was repeatedly cited as the main obstacle, particularly on the final day. While Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and a core group of leaders from about thirty nations or regions tried to hammer out a deal, Wen Jiabao sent officials in his place. This was primarily a defensive tactic. He did not want to be strongarmed into a deal. Those negotiators choked almost every numerical target.
Three European negotiators confirmed to me that Chinese negotiators not only blocked targets for themselves, but also a target proposed by Angela Merkel for developed nations to trim emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
I found that disturbing and perplexing. Was China doing this because it will be a developed nation by mid-century? I would like to hear China’s explanation, but its delegates have been very quiet since the end of the conference.
Disturbing and perplexing indeed.