Few expect big breakthroughs at China's climate change talks this
week. The real success will be in smoothing relations after the
Copenhagen debacle and small side deals that are more realistic,
United Nations climate officials say they hope to get talks for a
new global deal on carbon cuts back on track after last year's
climate talk debacle in Copenhagen. This week's climate change
conference hosted by China in Tianjin could give them just that
But with mistrust still high and feelings raw, few expect any big
breakthroughs in Tianjin, or at higher-level talks beginning in late
November in Cancun, Mexico. Instead, participants are focusing on
smaller side deals that are more realistic, observers say,
indicating that though a comprehensive deal might not get finalized
here the real success of the conference will be in smoothing
relations with small steps.
"Almost everybody is downplaying their expectations," said Yang
Ailun, Greenpeace China's head of climate and energy, in a phone
interview from Tianjin. "People are talking more about specific
issues they think they can make progress on, such as climate finance
Tough road ahead
The Tianjin talks are a prelude to Cancun, when world leaders
will again try to cobble together a global deal on reducing
greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming. The aim is to
forge a consensus before the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Hopes for a grand deal were dashed in Copenhagen last December,
when talks broke down amid recriminations between rich and
developing countries who couldn't agree on how to share the burden
for deep emissions cuts, and how such cuts should be verified.
Much of the focus is on China and the US, now the world's top two
emitters of greenhouse gases. China insists the US and other
developed countries should make more dramatic cuts and do more in
funding and transferring technology to poorer countries for green
The US wants China and some other developing nations to bear more
of the burden for cuts, and wants a mechanism for verifying such
cuts - something Beijing has resisted.
And they're closely watching the attitude of China, the world's
largest greenhouse-gas emitter, as it hosts the conference for the
first time in the 20-year history of United Nations global climate
Observers say there's no sign either side is prepared to budge
much from those positions. From China's point of view, said
Greenpeace China's Yang, the US is doing little domestically -
climate change legislation is stalled in the US Congress - and isn't
offering much at the negotiating table, either.
"China can't get any of the technology or climate finance it
wants, so it feels like there's very little the US can offer," she
said. "It's one reason why negotiations have really stalled."
Still, the view from Tianjin isn't all bleak. Of $30 billion
pledged by developed nations in Copenhagen to help developing
countries fight climate change, $28 billion is already lined up.
Observers are optimistic the rest will be in place by Cancun, though
there's skepticism that some of the funding is merely previously-
committed money repackaged as "green" aid.
Yang said negotiators also appear to be closing in on a deal on
There are also signs that China is getting more serious about
climate change, both domestically and on the global stage. The US
and China have begun cooperating on clean energy research, and China
is retooling coal plants in an effort to ease pollution.
In Copenhagen, where China took much of the blame for the
breakdown in talks, Beijing learned that it has new-found
responsibilities as a major world player, said Yang. …