China yesterday hit back at British accusations that Beijing had "hijacked" the Copenhagen climate change talks, as experts said rich countries are trying to find scapegoats for not reaching a binding agreement.
"The comment of a certain high-ranking official from the United Kingdom is unfair and irresponsible," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jiang Yu said yesterday.
She did not name the official, but the person appeared to be Ed Miliband, Britain's environment minister. In an article in the Guardian newspaper on Monday, Miliband said that China had prevented a more ambitious deal being signed. "We cannot again allow negotiations on real points of substance to be hijacked in this way," he wrote.
In Beijing yesterday, visiting French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said: "As for climate change, we should not leave it to one single country to take the sole responsibility." Fillon's comment came in a speech at Beihang University.
Lin Boqiang, director of Xiamen University's China Center for Energy Economics Research, said: "Miliband's comments could be the start of a flurry of buck-passing" since more than 190 countries and regions failed to set binding goals after 13 days of negotiations in Copenhagen.
A US expert said the UK appeared to claim its innocence on behalf of the European Union (EU).
Since the EU had already agreed to binding emissions cuts, it wanted the US and developing countries to agree to binding reductions, which they didn't because Washington couldn't without Congressional action, said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund in the US.
Jiang said British comments amounted to a "political plot" that aims to shirk the obligations of developed countries and provoke discord among developing countries.
The spokesperson emphasized that China has done its bit in mitigating climate change. "It performed no worse than any others," she said.
Days before the Copenhagen summit, Beijing declared it would reduce its carbon intensity, or carbon emissions per unit of GDP, by 40 to 45 percent from the 2005 level before 2020. The commitment is "unconditional and not linked with commitments of other countries", Jiang said.
Her comments came after the exposure of the UK's attempt to link its emissions goals with those of China's.
Premier Wen Jiabao said on Monday he rejected a suggestion by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said he would lobby the US and other EU members to commit to deeper emissions reduction on condition that China pledged to do more. Wen refused the request, he said, because China is still a developing country with 15 million people struggling in poverty.
"The UK was not in the position (to criticize China)," Jiang said yesterday. "It should reflect on what it did."
Jiang also urged nations to press ahead with the talks and reach new goals at the Mexico climate meeting late next year.
Lin agreed with that point and said: "The Copenhagen meeting is not a failure, but a beginning."
"At least, all parties have revealed their bottom lines and the meeting has succeeded in making climate change a global topic, which will pave the way for breakthroughs in Mexico," he said.
Li Jing contributed to the story