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Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009

Tempers flare at climate talks

Japanese plan offers nothing new, says China; Danish draft angers developing nations

Staff writer

COPENHAGEN — Tempers rose during the U.N. climate conference Tuesday, with key players criticizing each other's plans to combat global warming and a leaked draft from host nation Denmark creating havoc in the negotiating sessions.

While international pressure to conclude a deal is mounting, time is running out for delegates to agree quickly on numerous key issues that have divided developed and developing nations for months and deadlocked previous negotiations.

However, with less than 10 days to go before some 110 heads of state gather in Copenhagen, the European Union, United States, China and Japan spent Tuesday faulting each other's positions and restating their own commitments on greenhouse gas cuts and financial assistance for mitigating and adapting to the worst effects of climate change.

China in particular attacked Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels, saying that because of the conditions attached, Japan had effectively put nothing on the bargaining table.

A leaked draft, prepared by host nation Denmark, added to the tension. The draft proposed a new agreement on climate change under which developing nations would commit to nationally appropriate mitigation actions. Developing nations reacted furiously to the leaked proposal, which U.N. officials emphasized was unofficial.

Much of the attention is now focused on what kind of agreement the U.S. and China, which together account for more than 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, will reach in the coming days, and what the role of the EU and Japan will be in helping broker a deal. For the EU, though, China's current position is still not acceptable.

"China says their 45 percent reduction target is domestic, nonnegotiable and voluntary. But we need to see it in the international system, and we hope China will adopt a multilateral approach," said Anders Turesson, Sweden's chief negotiator, representing the EU, of which Sweden is currently president.

"As to the United States, the 17 percent reduction target proposal compared to 2005 levels is insufficient. When you add up all of the emissions targets from developed countries currently on the table, they do not prevent a 2-degree increase (in average temperature), which is what we need to prevent the worst effects of climate change," he said.

China's chief negotiator, Su Wei, said the EU's assessment of China's emissions reduction commitment was incorrect.

He also emphasized the importance of sticking to the Bali road map of 2007, which allowed for "common but differentiated responsibilities" between developed and developing countries to commit to reductions.

The goal proposed by China follows the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as outlined through the U.N. Framework on Climate Change Convention, as well as the requirements of the Bali road map that all nations signed in 2007.

The criticism from the EU cannot be fully justified because developed and developing countries share different types of responsibilities under the framework and the Kyoto Protocol, Su said.

The Chinese delegate was also unimpressed with Japan's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels.

"Japan's plan has problems. First, it comes with the condition that the U.S. and developing nations must shoulder the targets of reduction. Such requirements do not comply with the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention. Second, Japan says that the U.S. must set a target within the U.N. framework. But the U.S. will not join the Kyoto Protocol," he said.

"Therefore, we find Japan has committed nothing. They have put things that are impossible as preconditions for their commitment for a 25 percent reduction."

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said such criticism is a common bargaining ploy by China.

"This is the way China negotiates. They emphasize the Bali road map. Each country has its own interpretation of what the Bali road map means, and Japan's is different from China's," the official said.

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The Japan Times

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