‘What’s Good for Asia Is Good for the World’ – Chinese Official

Posted on 17 December 2009 by editor

Ambassador Yu Qingtai. Credit: Embassy of China in the United States

Ambassador Yu Qingtai. Credit: Embassy of China in the United States

By Rajiv Fernando*

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – China appears to have gained instant celebrity status since the opening days of the United Nations Climate Change Conference here.

The many meetings and press briefings arranged by Chinese officials have been jampacked by all who are excited to see the emerging economic giant of Asia will lead the rest of the developing world during the climate negotiations in the Danish capital.

In an interview with a small group of journalists that included TerraViva, Ambassador Yu Qingtai, the Special Representative for Climate Change Talks from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, took a cautiously optimistic approach in hopes of an agreement coming out of Copenhagen.

“Given the seriousness of the challenge we face and given the desire, we believe that the Copenhagen conference is extremely important, that we will achieve success,” said Yu. “We’ve come also with a readiness to engage with our partners to find ways to narrow the gap that still exists.”

“By the end of next week, we’ll be able to show the world, despite all the problems we encountered in the past two years after Bali, we have something that we can agree on, something that is meaningful, something that is based firmly on the convention and Bali Action Plan, something that will give us a good foundation for the coming years for enhanced cooperation to fight climate change,” he added.

The Copenhagen climate talks, which began on Dec. 7, are set to culminate tomorrow, Dec. 18.

Yu pointed out out that “political will” was one of the main obstacles to a bilateral agreement. He stated that all the Annex I (or developed) countries have expressed a lot of enthusiasm for making their contributions but have lagged behind in keeping their promises.

“Whether or not the Annex I countries are part of the Kyoto Protocol, they committed themselves to reducing their emissions to the 1990 levels by the year 2000. That is not something we want; that is something each and every country agreed to in the convention. If you look at the year 2000, I doubt that any country can stand before this gathering and say, ‘I met my goals’ and so far I have not heard anybody say ‘I have not failed’ and that is the kind of gap we are looking at,” Yu explained.

In recent days, there has been a lot of strong rhetoric from both China and the United States. Being the two largest producers of greenhouse gases, a significant deal from Copenhagen would not be possible without the two countries reaching a compromise.

Responding to criticism that China would not need any money from the United States, aired by top climate change negotiator Todd Sterns, Yu pointed out that when China takes a strong stand on financing and technology transfer issues, the government is not looking at what the country can get from what may or may not eventually emerge from these talks.

“We have strong positions on financing and technology transfer because these are the obligations the developed countries undertook in the Convention (on Climate Change), but have so far failed to meet them. There’s no way the U.S. will join the Kyoto Protocol, but the U.S. (government) is a contracting party to the convention. If you look at the convention as Annex I countries, as developed countries, there are clear provisions on what they need to implement,” said Yu.

Saying that the larger developing countries are able to help the smaller developing countries, he pointed out continuing South-South cooperation underway and gave the example of China working with African states.

In a ministerial conference carried out weeks before the Copenhagen climate talks, called the Sino-African Forum that took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and other African heads of state agreed on an action plan under which Beijing agreed to enhance the support it gives to Africa and expand the area of climate change in bilateral programmes.

“We are helping Africa fight climate change in terms of adaptation, capacity building, sustainable agriculture, and we have already announced we will increase our resources to help Africa do all this,” said Yu.

Yu does not agree that there are “major” or “minor” players in the ongoing climate change talks. “What we are working for is a close regional cooperation across a huge range of issues from economic development, social development, capacity building, human resource development, all the way to climate change,” he said.

“It’s a common challenge to the world but definitely a common challenge to each and every country in Asia. You have China and India, larger developing countries who are maintaining a good momentum in economic and social development. You have the Small Island Developing States, the Least Developed Countries at different stages of economic development,” Yu explained.

“There is great potential in working together; complementing each other so the end result will be good for each and every country involved in this effort, because what’s good for the region is good for the world.”

Yu concluded: “If the developed countries continue to fail in meeting their commitments in terms of financing and technology transfer, it becomes all more important that the developing countries step up their efforts to help each other.”

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