John Prescott Defends China’s Role at Copenhagen Climate Summit

With China receiving much blame for the failure to produce a binding agreement at the Copenhagen climate change conference, former deputy prime minister of Great Britain John Prescott has defended China’s role in the talks. From the Guardian:

The former deputy prime minister helped negotiate the Kyoto protocol in 1997, and was in Copenhagen acting as an informal bridge between the Chinese delegation and others.

As a frequent visitor to China, who knows many of its officials personally, Prescott fears privately that the Chinese will walk away from the talks if they continue to be singled out for blame.

In a letter to the Guardian, Prescott criticises the US climate change special envoy, Todd Stern, who “said at Copenhagen emissions weren’t about ‘morality or politics’, they were ‘just maths’, with China projected to emit 60% more CO2 than the US by 2030″.

In his letter Prescott claims that Stern’s arguments “ignored the more transparent measure of pollution per capita, which shows the US emits 20 tonnes per person every year, compared to China’s six tonnes, whilst America’s GDP per person is almost eight times greater than the Chinese”. He also attacks President Barack Obama for suggesting there had been a period of “two decades of talking and no action. That might have been true in America, which refused to sign up to Kyoto, but not in the case of China or Europe, who followed a lot of that protocol’s policies. Indeed Obama’s offer of a 17% cut is wholly dependent on Congressional approval and will still be less than Kyoto targets.” Prescott is climate change convenor for the Council of Europe, with the role of exploring how to keep the talks on the road.

Danwei interviews Guardian correspondent Jonathan Watts about the Copenhagen conference:

Danwei: What’s your opinion concerning the outcome?
JW: If you consider only the past two weeks, the outcome was disturbing. Very little progress was made in Copenhagen despite all that effort, all those nations, all those leaders and all the political capital invested. From Obama and Wen to Desmond Tutu and Arnold Schwarzeneger, from scientists to civil society, from pop music to the aristocracy, mankind lined up its A-team to solve this problem, yet they only just salvaged a two-page document. Given how close the conference came to complete failure, I wonder whether leaders will ever again dare to sit down and try to thrash out a deal. It will be difficult to get the political stars in alignment again. As one depressed Asian delegate said to me, “We have wasted the opportunity of a lifetime.”

On a broader, more hopeful note, the build-up to Copenhagen focused unprecedented attention on climate change. It has forced nations to set targets. We do have a deal of sorts and a greater commitment of funds. Now leaders need to learn from the chaos of the conference and find a new way forward. Building trust will be essential. There was little of that around in Denmark.

December 27, 2009 6:36 PM
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