China played pivotal role in climate talks

Editorial

The UN Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7-19, attended by 119 heads of state or government. Premier Wen Jiabao represented China.

The Copenhagen conference produced important and positive outcomes. Firstly, it firmly upheld the framework and the host of principles established by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, particularly the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities".

Secondly, it was because of this conference that both developed and developing countries have set out some targets and taken new actions to address climate change.

Developed countries set out mandatory emission reduction targets as required by the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries put forward voluntary mitigation actions. These commitments are recorded in two separate tables appended to the Copenhagen Accord.

Thirdly, there are major issues in climate change negotiations, including global long-term targets, financing, technology transfer and transparency. Parties were deeply divided on these issues in the negotiations in the past few years.

After intensive negotiations, an initial consensus was reached on these issues. This in itself is a very important outcome.

Take global long-term targets for an example. It was agreed that global temperature should not rise by more than two degrees Celsius by 2050. In terms of financing, the Accord provides for the establishment of a mechanism in which developed countries should provide funding to developing countries.

Developed countries have committed to a target, namely, providing $10 billion a year up to 2012, which will total $30 billion. They have also pledged to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020. Though the numbers are not significant and in China’s view are not enough, they mark a step forward. It was also agreed that a mechanism should be set up for technology transfer.

Voluntary actions

As for transparency, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, the Protocol and the Bali Action Plan, the emission reduction targets set by developed countries are mandatory and should be subject to "MRV", which stands for "measurable, reportable and verifiable".

The financial and technological support should also be subject to "MRV". For developing countries, their mitigation actions can be divided into two categories. International "MRV" is only required for actions launched with international financial and technical support, not for the voluntary actions taken by developing countries with their own resources.

However, to increase transparency and openness, the issue of greater transparency was also discussed this time for the mitigation actions taken by developing countries without international support. A fairly good proposal was put forward on this matter: countries will report their respective actions and then there will be a process of international consultations and analysis.

New beginning

The conference should be viewed as just one stop in the journey to tackle climate change. Though we have come this far, we should go still further. This is a new beginning. We will continuously move forward and think this outcome charted the course of future negotiations.

China made important contribution to strengthening international co-operation and displayed the image of a responsible big country committed to development and co-operation.

First, upholding principles and maintaining the foundation of international co-operation on climate change

Developing and developed countries differ greatly in historical emission responsibilities and current emission levels. They are also different in terms of national circumstances and stage of development. It is, therefore, only natural that they shoulder different responsibilities and obligations in the campaign against climate change.

In the past few years, there has been a tendency to play down differentiated responsibilities while highlighting common responsibilities, and to exert pressure on major emerging countries while trying to cajole poor nations and small island states.

The real purpose is to totally deny the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities". The position of China, the largest developing country, is of critical importance and has been followed closely by many.

Premier Wen Jiabao highlighted the following principles that all should observe:

First, maintain the consistency of outcomes. The outcome of the conference must stick to the basic principles enshrined in the Convention and the Protocol. It must follow rather than deviate from the mandate of the "Bali Roadmap". It should lock up rather than deny the consensus and progress already achieved in the negotiations.

Second, uphold fairness of rules. The principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" represents the core and bedrock of international co-operation on climate change, and it must never be compromised.

Developed countries must take the lead in making deep quantified emission cuts and provide financial and technological support to developing countries. Developing countries should, with financial and technological support, do what they can to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change in the light of their national conditions.

Third, pay attention to the practicality of the targets. We need to take a long-term perspective, but more importantly, we should focus on the present. We should focus on achieving near-term and mid-term reduction targets, honouring the commitments already made and taking real action.

Fourth, ensure the effectiveness of institutions and mechanisms. We should make concrete and effective institutional arrangements and urge developed countries to honour commitments, provide sustained and adequate financial and technological support to developing countries, and take credible steps to help developing countries counter climate change.

Ambitious and impressive

These sensible and legitimate principles outlined by Wen represent the shared aspiration of developing countries. They are both realistic and forward-looking, and have taken into account the interests of all parties. They pointed the way forward at a decisive moment of the conference, gave a strong push to the efforts to safeguard and advance the negotiation process, and therefore received wide support and endorsement.

Many developing countries praised China for setting a good example in efforts to tackle climate change. Some developed countries also believed China’s target for controlling greenhouse gas emissions is ambitious and impressive.

This Press release is from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Kenya

Public Watchdog resumes next week.