China played an "important and constructive" role in sealing the last-minute Copenhagen Accord, Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday, even as he urged the international community to treasure the summit's hard-won outcome.
Observers tracking the progress of the climate change talks agreed with Wen's assessment, saying China was making persistent efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. They also criticized the Western media for being unaware of the progress the country was making in this direction.
Amid Western media reports that the country had wrecked a binding deal at Copenhagen, Premier Wen told Xinhua News Agency in an interview after his return from the conference that China had worked closely with other countries during the 13-day climate change negotiations.
"The communication process was open, transparent and highly efficient, which played a very important role in securing the outcome," Wen said. "China always does that with the utmost sincerity and effort."
Ever since Nov 26, when China pledged to cut carbon intensity by 40-45 percent (from 2005 levels) before 2020, Wen has been involved in intensive diplomatic efforts, including wide-ranging telephone talks with world leaders, to move forward the Copenhagen agenda.
He also met up with key heads of state from rich countries, the developing bloc, island nations, and from Africa after arriving in Copenhagen.
Without such efforts, the observers pointed out, even such an accord would not have been possible given the vastly different positions of the developed and developing nations.
The world could hardly afford a "no-deal" scenario, what with 119 global leaders attending the talks during the final stages, they said.
"In this respect, China has played a very constructive role in helping to secure a deal, whether it was binding or not," Dennis Pamlin, a Sweden-based climate change advisor and visiting scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.
Alex Wang, director of the China Environmental Law Project of the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said China had made two important contributions to the Copenhagen Accord.
The first related to its voluntary announcement of the emission reduction target just before the Copenhagen summit, and the second, in agreeing to move towards greater transparency and "international consultations and analysis."
"The latter set the stage for a clearer global understanding of how countries were reducing greenhouse gas emissions, although the details need to be worked out in a way that promotes transparency," said Wang.
Wen, who was the first speaker at the leaders' summit last Friday in Copenhagen, said China's 40-45 percent carbon intensity reduction commitment was unconditional and voluntary, and that the country would try its utmost to meet, or even exceed, the target.
Many rich nations, however, had pledged to do more only if China committed to a higher emission reduction target, the premier said.
During a one-hour telephone conversation before heading to Copenhagen, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised such a request four times. If China were to agree then Brown said he would persuade the US and EU to commit to a deeper cut, Wen said.
The premier, however, refused, saying China was still a developing country with 150 million people still living below the poverty line.
In a separate development, Ed Miliband, UK's climate change secretary, in an article published in the Guardian yesterday, accused China of trying to hijack the Copenhagen summit and "holding the world to ransom" to prevent a deal being reached.
Pamlin refuted the allegation, saying any likely flaw in the current Accord was mainly the fault of Western nations as they had not taken adequate responsibility in the run-up to the summit.
"The last hours of the negotiations have been discussed too much, but the final result must be seen as part of the whole process," Pamlin said. "From that perspective, China has played a constructive role, and the domestic actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been very important to demonstrate that China is serious."
For Copenhagen, Premier Wen had prepared a speech filled with concrete examples of what China was doing, Pamlin said. The world must remember that China was still a developing country and that it had played a constructive role even at previous climate change talks at Rio and Kyoto.
"This is in contrast to the Americans who have obstructed or even left the negotiations as in the case of Kyoto," he said.
Alleging that China was trying to "hijack" the negotiation was an obvious misunderstanding of the issue or perversion of the truth, said He Jiankun, vice-president of the National Expert Panel on Combating Climate Change.
He said the Copenhagen Accord was a result of concessions from all sides.
"You can't say China was hijacking the negotiations just because it disagreed with certain points; China has also made several concessions," He, who was in Copenhagen as an advisor to Chinese negotiators, said.
Pamlin said US President Barack Obama may have energized the talks, but that his speech lacked concrete action points.
The US president even attacked China's position - something that was unnecessary and inappropriate for a leader of Obama's stature.
"The Western media and politicians put the blame on ChinaTo me this sounds strange as China has invested in concrete actions," Pamlin said.