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China Clashes With U.S., EU on Roles in New Climate Deal

China Clashes With U.S., EU Over Role in Next Climate Agreement
A worker levels coal on a freight train in Taiyuan in northern China's Shanxi province. Photographer: AP Photo

China clashed with the U.S. and European Union over the commitments each should take in a new climate change agreement that envoys aim to reach by 2015.

The deal should operate under rules dating back to 1992 that set a clear division between the obligations of industrial and developing nations, Chinese Environment Minister Xie Zhenhua told delegates at United Nations climate talks in Warsaw. The U.S. and EU want to step away from that division.

“An agreement based on 1992 categories that are unchanging will not work,” U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern told delegates today. “We have advocated a structure for the new agreement that is designed to attract the participation of all countries.” His view was backed by European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

The bickering underscores the scale of the difficulty that negotiators face in forging a treaty by 2015 that could replace the Kyoto Protocol, the only international pact limiting fossil fuel emissions. While richer nations led by the U.S. and EU want all countries to make cuts together, those classed as developing want the industrial nations to move first.

“We first want to see what the mitigation pledges of the developed nations are,” Indian Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said at a briefing alongside Xie. “We first want to see what happens to the pledges in terms of mitigation, what is to be done. We would like to know where we stand.”

Durban Plan

Two years ago in Durban, South Africa, developed nations hailed a mandate they agreed on that said the next pact would be “applicable to all.” The U.S. and EU read that as breaking down the old divide. Since then, China, India and other developing nations have been attempting to rebuild the wall.

“Some seem to want to take us backward,” U.K. Secretary of State for energy and Climate Change Ed Davey told delegates. “We should consider not just past emissions, but present emissions and future emissions.”

Xie’s comments show there’s more work to do to bring nations together as they work toward a deal in Paris in 2015 that will enter force in 2020.

The deal should be “designed in such a way that it will distinguish between developed and developing countries,” said Xie. “The north-south development divide will persist after 2020. There is no denying the historic responsibility of developed countries for climate change.”

Xie said the “blueprint” for the new deal should be the 1992 UN Convention on Climate Change and its annexes. That’s a reference to lists of developed nations that were assigned different responsibilities from poorer ones. The convention led to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set binding emissions targets only for industrialized nations.

“It’s clear that in the future, reaching far into the 21st century, we need to have a more dynamic way of getting to grip with this,” Hedegaard said. “We cannot afford any backtracking from Durban. We now must start moving forward.”

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