Blame game holds up climate talks

At least 400 scientists and experts from about 120 countries are attending the week-long third session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s leading authority on global warming.

Their report, expected to be released at the end of their meeting on Friday, aims to lay out ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent a climate catastrophe without seriously hurting the global economy.

But China has also insisted on specific figures, which lay the blame for global warming on rich nations, be inserted into the conclusions, according to documents obtained by AFP.

Developed countries should formally recognise they were responsible for 95 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the pre-industrial era to 1950, and for 77 percent from 1950 to 2000, according to China’s submission to the IPCC.

China also rejected phrasing that places the onus on the entire world to deal with climate change, instead urging the focus to be on rich nations where per capita emissions of greenhouse gases are far higher than in poorer countries.

"If the countries with high per capita emissions do not reduce their emissions significantly, it will be difficult to make substantial global progresses in GHG (greenhouse gas) mitigation," China’s submission said.

One of the French delegates, Renaud Crassous, said China was proving to be a dominant force in this week’s talks, while others said the United States was remaining low key.

"China is distrustful regarding everything that could draw a conclusion that it is easy to reduce emissions," Crassous said.

Various delegates contacted by AFP said the demands, made by China but backed by India and Brazil, were not relevant to this week’s meeting because it was meant to specifically look at ways to mitigate climate change.

"This is not the point of this meeting. We are meant to be looking to the future," the European delegate who did not want to be named said.

Another delegate from the West, who also asked not to be identified, said the positions put forward by China, India and Brazil were part of a long-term negotiating strategy by the world’s three most powerful developing nations.

They want to set the stage for other major international political events this year, such as the G8 leaders’ summit in June in Germany, where climate change is certain to be one of the hot topics of discussion.

The United Nations is also holding a climate change conference in Bali in December, and the big three of the developing world want to make sure the focus is on rich nations to take the leading role in tackling global warming, the delegate from the West said.

Although the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted per person by developing countries is far lower than rich nations, their total output is rising fast.

This is mainly due to their dependence on greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels for driving economic growth.

China will overtake the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases sometime before 2010, according to the International Energy Agency.

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