U.S. Envoy Sees No 'Game-Changer' in China's Emissions Pledges
2010-12-07 22:23:45.604 GMT
By Kim Chipman and Alex Morales
Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. said China hasn't gone far
enough in giving transparency to its efforts limiting greenhouse
gases, adding to doubt about the prospects for an agreement at
United Nations global warming talks this week.
China's delegation chief Xie Zhenhua said yesterday he's
prepared to include in an official UN document China's
"voluntary" pledge to rein in emissions, a response to demands
from the U.S. and the European Union that current promises be
anchored within the negotiating process.
"I've seen quotes from some people saying this can be a
game-changer," Todd Stern, the lead U.S. envoy at the talks in
Cancun, Mexico, said at a briefing today. "I'd love it to be a
game-changer, but as far as I'm concerned, this is business as
China's move, as leaders from 35 nations arrived for the
final four days of the discussions, was one of the first
glimmers of hope that the delegates may be able to bridge
differences between rich and poor nations blocking an agreement.
Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia
and Rafael Correa of Ecuador are among the leaders arriving for
the final four days of the conference. U.S. President Barack
Obama, who attended last year in Copenhagen, is not coming this
time. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told the delegates they
were "not rising to the challenge" of making an agreement.
"We need results now," he said. "Our efforts so far have
been insufficient. We need to make progress in these
negotiations. The longer we delay the more we will have to pay.
A UN report today said glaciers in Chile and Alaska
retreating the quickest in the world. Those in Europe, which
were building mass during the 1970s, now are shrinking. A text
for this week's talks suggests keeping temperature increases
since the 1700s to "below 2 degrees Celsius."
Carbon dioxide emissions have risen 40 percent from 1990 to
2008, double the level that would produce a 3.5 degrees Celsius
increase in global temperatures, the International Energy
Agency said yesterday.
"The environmental stakes are high," said Christiana
Figueres, the UN diplomat leading the talks. "We are quickly
running out of time to safeguard our future. Sooner or later
island nations will have to seek refuge in higher-lying
countries. There will be worse impacts."
Current emissions goals from the world's biggest polluters
are enshrined in the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding document
that envoys to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
don't formally recognize.
Zhenhua said yesterday that developing countries, including
China, "could choose to make voluntary action utilising their
own resources under the UNFCCC framework."
Chinese remarks show "there's a move toward the middle
ground," European Commission envoy Artur Runge-Metzger said in
an interview today in Cancun.
"It looks like things are coalescing," Andrew Deutz, head
of international government relations at the Nature Conservancy,
an environmental advocacy group in Arlington, Virginia, said in
an interview today in Cancun. "There are two big road blocks in
the way and one is MRV. I think that roadblock should be
The other big source of disagreement is how to ensure
greenhouse gas emissions are reduced after 2012, when limits for
rich nations set out in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expire. Japan,
Canada and Russia are refusing to sign up for a second period of
commitments. China, India and Brazil say those further
reductions are essential.
"It's hard pounding," said Chris Huhne, Britain's energy
secretary, who along with his Brazilian counterpart was tapped
by the UN to work out a compromise on the Kyoto issue. "We're
getting there. I'm a half-glass full man."
Envoys are working on measures including a $100-billion-a-
year climate aid fund, rules that would protect forests and the
system of monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions cuts,
known as MRV in UN jargon. Two draft documents released today on
the MRV issue were filled with brackets, an indication the
wording has yet to be agreed.
"There's been quite some progress on MRV," Runge-Metzger
said. "It's kind of a skeleton now, and what we need to do now
is to put flesh onto the bones."
Under the text, developed countries were urged to adopt
more ambitious, legally-binding targets.
Developing country's mitigation actions would be subject to
MRV procedures when supported by aid, and when not supported,
they would conduct their own monitoring and then submit the
report to international analysis, according to the text.
The MRV package was one of the key tensions between the
U.S. and China that prevented a global warming agreement at last
year's talks in Copenhagen.
"The transparency issue is lagging way behind," said
Stern of the U.S. "There is a lot of support in the conference
and among developing countries for the proposal the Indians have
put forward," he said, referring to an attempt by Indian
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to unlock the process.
India has proposed guidelines that would differentiate
between rich and poor nations and also put rapidly emerging
developing countries like China into a separate category than
the poorest nations.
Developing nations have been voicing concerns about the
verification program, which they viewed as encroaching on their
"If MRV issues are resolve and targets are resolved, then
everything can be resolved," Quamrul Chowdhury, Bangladeshi
envoy, said today in an interview. "But those are the crux
issues where there hasn't been much progress."
Zhenua said yesterday that China, India, Brazil and South
Africa had reached agreement in principle on the transparency
--With assistance from Mathew Carr, Jim Efstathiou Jr. and
Carlos Rodriguez in Cancun, Mexico. Editors: Reed Landberg, Will
To contact the reporter on this story:
Alex Morales in London at +44-20-7330-7718 or
Kim Chipman in Cancun, Mexico at +1-202-624-1927 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at +44-20-7330-7862 or