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Norman Spector

No one's blaming Canada for Copenhagen Add to ...

Reviewing the press today, I could not find a single reference to Canada being responsible for an agreement described, on the front page of the Independent as a "historic failure that will live in infamy" by British Greenpeace activist Joss Garman. Instead, the U.S. and China are coming in for most of the blame - with the latter tagged for having insisted that a target date for negotiation of a legally binding text be dropped.

Asked by the Observer who was to blame for blocking the introduction of controlled emissions, the director general of the Swedish environment protection agency, Lars-Erik Liljelund, replied: "China. China doesn't like numbers." On the other hand, Britain's former deputy PM and Kyoto negotiator, John Prescott, writes in the same paper "President Obama's speech blaming China didn't help."

The Guardian also reports this fascinating exchange from inside the negotiations:

"Around 8 pm, after the second of these bilateral meetings, Obama returned to the negotiating room saying he had secured an agreement from Wen on the key issue of how promises to cut emissions would be verified by the international community. But a new fight then erupted in which China bizarrely insisted that Europe lower its targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

"Merkel wanted to set a target for developed nations to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, but in the last gasp, China declared this unacceptable. This astonished many of those present: China was telling rich nations to rein back on their long-term commitment. The assumed reason was that China will have joined their ranks by 2050 and does not want to meet such a target. 'Ridiculous,' exclaimed Merkel as she was forced to abandon the target."

In the Independent, a European official explains China's strategy:

"The Chinese were happy as they'd win either way. If the process collapsed they'd win because they don't have to do anything and they know the rich countries will get the blame.

"If the deal doesn't collapse because everyone is so desperate to accommodate them that they water it down to something completely meaningless, they get their way again. …It was extraordinary to see, and incredibly worrying for what it bodes for the future of our planet in this century. China is not going to get less powerful, and if this is the way that it's going to behave, then we have problems."

In U.S. papers, too, you can read plenty of criticism of China's tactics. The New York Times, for example, reports: "Twice during the day, Mr. Wen sent an underling to represent him at the meetings with Mr. Obama. To make things worse, each time it was a lower-level official." But there's also lots of criticism of the unwieldy process at Copenhagen that proved a tough nut for President Obama to crack, which suggests that the Americans have a new process in mind in future - perhaps the major emitters group, perhaps the G2 of itself and China.

In the dozen or so papers I read today, I found only one defense of China - apart, that is, from Xinhua, the state news agency of China which was quoted in a Times of London report. And it's that defense of China in Le Soleil by a Canadian, Steven Guilbeault - formerly Greenpeace's Québec spokesperson and now a consultant with environmental groups who was very present in Copenhagen - which perhaps explains why Canada received so many fossil awards despite not having been responsible for the "historic failure that will live in infamy" described by British Greenpeace activist Joss Garman.

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