China welcomed the outcome of a historical UN climate summit Sunday, a day after a nonbinding deal reached in Copenhagen was attacked for falling short on concrete steps against global warming.
Environment observers warned that any operational agreement in the future would require ac-tions from the US, which was blamed by Greenpeace for failing to "take any real leadership and dragging the talks down."
In a statement on the foreign ministry's website, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi outlined the "positive results" of the two-week conference: successfully maintaining the principle of "common but differentiated responsibility," which took a step forward with regards to developed countries' mandatory emissions cuts and developing nations' voluntary mitigation actions, and a broad consensus on long-term global targets, funding, technology support to developing countries, and transparency.
Yang didn't specifically mention the "Copenhagen Accord" reached Saturday, which set a goal of "jointly mobilizing" the $100 billion-a-year climate aid for developing nations by 2020 but does not pin down industrialized countries to targets.
The UN climate conference agreed to "take note of" the accord, brokered by several countries including the US and China. The deal was not formally adopted by all na-tions due to opposition by a handful of developing nations, which said it ignored the real needs of the poor.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang Monday hit out at critics of the closed nature of the accord, saying Beijing had always maintained close contact and coordination with all countries during the summit.
The deal, however, lacked many elements environmentalists considered crucial, including firm targets for mid- or long-term reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions and a deadline for concluding a binding treaty next year.
Greenpeace commented on Saturday, "The blame for failure mostly lies with the rich industrialized world, countries which have the largest historic responsibility for causing the problem. In particular, the US failed to take any real leadership and dragged the talks down."
Obama, rescheduled for the climax of proceedings, came just to reiterate what is in the draft legislation on climate change prepared by Congress. Maybe that's why he invited laughter from the reporters present when he said in his speech, "I come here today not to talk, but to act."
"Some even saw the US president as an active obstacle to a real agreement – alienating the Chinese with a demand for inspections," London's Daily Telegraph wrote Monday. "For all the efforts of Obama's people to present him as key to a deal, his reputation suffered in Copenhagen – along with many other totems of idealism."
Pang Jun, a scholar at the School of Environment and Natural Resources at the Renmin University of China, noted that China has made a reasonable compromise by accepting a provision requiring developing countries to report every two years on their voluntary actions, subject to "international consultations and analysis."
"However, without explicit commitments of financial assistance and technological transfers from rich nations, the developing world would find it unreasonable to accept external monitoring and verification of their greenhouse-gas emissions efforts," Pang added.
Pang conceded that a promise of $30 billion over the next three years in climate aid from rich to poor countries, with shares taken by the EU, Japan and the United Staes, was a real achievement.
Talks go on, but can climate wait?
The next planned UN climate meeting is a regular half-yearly session among officials in Bonn, from May 31 to June 11, before another round of annual UN climate talks scheduled for November 2010 in Mexico, where negotiators are hoping to nail down a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.\
A legally binding agreement, succeeding the first phase of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and requiring further emissions cuts by richer nations, was the goal in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 when the annual UN conference set a two-year timetable leading to Copenhagen.
Under the "Copenhagen Accord," a first deadline is for backers to submit plans for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions by January 31, 2010, to the UN.
Reuters warned Monday that the world will find it hard to get UN-led climate talks back on track in Mexico after the deal agreed in Copenhagen set no firm deadline for a legally binding treaty.
Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, said the outcome is disappointing but not surprising, as carbon-emissions reduction is, in essence, a development issue that involves redistribution of resources, depending on the economic growth patterns of all countries and people's lifestyles.
For at least the next several years, the lack of a binding treaty may result in a piecemeal response to climate change, with action being taken largely on a national and regional level, the Washing-ton Post said Monday.
Carbon emissions have increased an average of 2 to 3 percent a year in the past decade. Even if countries live up to their commitments on reductions, a gap remains between the nations' combined pledges and what would be required to avert the risks of disruptive changes in rainfall and drought, ecosystems and polar-ice cover from global warming, scientists say.
The New York Times commented Monday that the current approach to tackling the threat of a warming planet "has become unworkable," and coordinating international efforts to reduce emissions could occur with a much smaller group of nations, roughly 30 countries responsible for 90 percent of global-warming emissions.
"This smaller group of nations will meet periodically to tackle a narrower agenda, such as technology sharing or the merging of carbon-trading markets, without the chaos and posturing of the UN process," it suggested.
Pang Jun, however, said that there is no better platform for multi-lateral consultations over climate change than the existing talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), although the current mechanism may not be ideal or the most effective way.
China's position is that the UNFCCC should remain as the main platform for climate-change talks, while negotiation on other occasions could serve as a supplement, not a replacement, Pang added.