China, cast as the wrecker of the United Nations climate negotiations last year, went some way towards rehabilitation at the Cancun summit recently amid reports that it is prepared to compromise on a core United States demand.
In an apparent effort to make up for last year’s debacle at Copenhagen — where China fired up developing countries into opposing a deal and delivering diplomatic snubs to Barack Obama — officials this time have opted for a constructive, low-key approach, say negotiators.
“There is more camaraderie than I saw in Copenhagen, more dialogue and much more intense engagement between the US and China, and less shadow boxing,” said India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh. “China has moved.”
Some reports even suggest that China, now the biggest producer of greenhouse gases, is prepared to adopt legally binding emissions targets and subject its voluntary C02 reductions to international monitoring and verification.
“It’s a huge step in the right direction,” said Fred Boltz of Conservation International. Jennifer Morgan, an analyst for the World Resource Institute, immediately hailed the move as a “game-changer”.
The US climate change envoy, Todd Stern, has said repeatedly that the US will not support emerging deals on climate aid and technology transfer or preventing deforestation unless there is also progress on its prime demand for verification.
For China, as for the other emerging economic powers such as India and Brazil, international verification of efforts to reduce emissions is very sensitive. But the Chinese climate change envoy, Xie Zhenhua, did not list the issue as a deal-breaker at a media conference.
Ramesh said he thought China would be wary of being cast as the wrecker again. “They know the world’s radar is on them,” he said.
China is due to incorporate its environmental targets into its 12th five-year plan, due to be adopted in March. — Guardian News & Media 2010