Environment newlight on 21 Dec 2009
After the chaos of Copenhagen climate change summit, UK’s climate change minister Ed Miliband, proud of his ‘last minute rescue’ of the summit, launched an attack on China, suggesting it’s China’s refusal of giving way that caused the summit’s near collapse. It may seems out of frustration, but blaming China for the failure of Copenhagen is not only unfair, but also missing the point.
What the Copenhagen shows us is that this kind of summit doesn’t work when facing such a complicated and pressing issue. Many were over-optimistic before the summit, hyped by Miliband himself, to expect the countries would smooth over their huge difference and work out a treaty with binding targets that will affect all involved. The summit now looks ill prepared, badly organised, without a solid foundation and well communicated understanding. Trying to knock out a deal while all the participants having their own interests to protect, was not realistic.
All major players came to Copenhagen with their own baggage. China, along with India, Brazil and Russia, doesn’t want the binding carbon emission cutting targets to straightjacket its economic growth. Developing countries like China and African countries rightly feel the injustice of taking the burden of emission cut while the industrialized countries who had burned a large amount of fossil fuels now washed their hands by passing the manufactory to developing countries.
The fatal flaw is that the world leaders failed to bring their people with them. There is no real public pressure for the leaders to do something racial now. President Obama arrived Copenhagen empty handed, and then diverted to attack China for not agreeing an international inspection system. (Do we really like WMD style inspectors jetting around the world searching for secret carbon emission?) He went back to the States somehow claiming victory over China. Yes we know his hands are tied, with a resisting domestic opposition to pacify. But that just illustrates how unhelpful and hollow that Ed Miliband decided to single out China.
It’s sad that after all the efforts of scientists and environmental campaigners, the world population are largely not convinced that they have to do something themselves. But all is not lost. The bright side is that the political will does not seem to diminish despite all the disappointment. I believe China is committed to cut carbon emission because for China there is an opportunity to catch up or even lead the green technologies and low carbon industry, and the leadership sees that.
Post-Copenhagen, people are desperate to find a way forward. But playing the blame game isn’t the way.