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China gets serious about Copenhagen, develops catchy alpha-numeric slogan

December 8th, 2009 · No Comments

Now we know that China takes the Copenhagen round of climate change negotiations seriously.  It has developed one of those catchy (if often hard to translate) phrases with numbers to capture its core negotiating principles: “one target, two main channels, three principles, four consensus.” (一个目标,两个主渠道,三个原则,四个共识).

Oriental Outlook Weekly published an interview with Cao Rongxiang climate change researcher at the CPC Central Committee.  He is the author of the forthcoming book, “Climate change and the failure of democracy,” and he provides a primer on China’s core negotiating principles and the major issues it anticipates at Copenhagen.

The 10 items of the core negotiating principles are:

A. one target

A global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, or atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of less than 450ppm.

B. two main channels

The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

C. three principles

  • “common but differentiated responsibilities,”
  • “fair” and
  • “sustainable development.”

The “sustainable development” principle addresses the developing countries’ concerns that efforts to address climate change will not interfere with their economic development and poverty eradication efforts.

D. four consensus

  • developed countries must commit to quantified mid-term emission reduction obligations because of their historical emissions and current high per capita emissions;
  • developing countries should undertake efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change in as aggressive manner as their national conditions and funding and technology transfers from developed countries permit;
  • developed countries should provide financial support to developing countries;
  • effective institutional arrangements should be devised to promote technology transfers to developing countries to enhance their capacity to address climate change.

As Cao Rongxiang notes, there really isn’t a consensus surrounding these last four items (but who wants to spoil a catchy phrase), indeed, there isn’t a consensus about any of the 10 points set forth above.  Therefore, he believes the negotiations will be very intense.

He predicts the major controversies will center around five items:

1. Whether the parties proceed inside or outside the framework established by the “two main channels.”  He spends a lot of time criticizing the US for its desire to scrap some of the basic features of these prior international agreements (which are basically set forth in his three principles and four consensus).

2. Appropriate emission reduction commitments from developed countries.

3. The amount of financial assistance provided by developed countries to developing ones.

4. The transfer of technology from developed countries to developing ones.

5. Whether the focus of future actions should on adaptation or mitigation.  Cao Rongxiang states that many small developing countries need help to adapt to rising sea-levels, impacts on agricultural production, etc., while developed countries tend to focus on capacity-building, the use of new energy sources, etc. to slow down the temperature increases.

He believes thet the two most important issues for China are to hold firm on negotiating within the existing framework and to pursue technology transfers over financial assistance because lack of technology is China’s most pressing need.

There is nothing new here, but it does make for a handy review of where China stands at the outset of negotiations.

Tags: US-China relations · carbon emissions

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