China’s unclear game

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According to a witness of the last moments of the negotiations, the failure of the Copenhagen summit is due more to China’s attitude than that of the United States. Though China takes the climate change problem very seriously, in no way does it wants to get hindered by international accords. How then can western ecologists encourage the fight against climate warming in such a non democratic superpower where the ecologist movement is still in a limbo?

Not a day goes by without China being talked about in the media. But there is one topic on which the press up till now has been very discreet: China’s role in the last stage of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Well, Mark Lynas, ecologist and wellknown British newspaperman just published a very enlightening article on that topic. The title itself gives you a taste of its content “ How do I know that China wrecked the Copenhagen deal ? I was in the room “.

In this article, he tells how the Chinese regime intentionally wrecked the talks, humiliated Barack Obama and then managed to put the blame on western countries – giving the impression that once again they had failed the emerging countries.

Mark Lynas describes how on Friday 18th, the last evening of the negotiations, Wen Jibao refused to come and discuss with Ban Ki-Moon, Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and other Heads of States; how he sent one of his underlings to negotiate on his behalf. And how, the latter, who was getting his orders by telephone, demanded and obtained that some keys figures be deleted, such as the 80% emissions cut for 2050 which had been accepted by western countries.

Of course, Mark Lynas’s point of view should be checked out against those of other persons also in the room. Only a few dozens, including many heads of states, making it difficult to obtain other testimonies. But the very absence of other information confirms the importance of this text and the past record of the british ecologist testify to the seriousness of his work.

Why, then, did China “not only refused targets for itself, but also refused that other countries should adopt any?” asks Mark Lynas. He quotes an expert, according whom “ China weakens the climate agreements now, in order to avoid being faced with more severe constrains in the years to come”.

Beyond the almost historical interest of this testimony, it’s the conclusion of his text which is important: “This century is fast becoming China’s century, yet it has shown that international environmental governance is not only not its priority, but is viewed as an obstacle to the new superpower’s freedom of action. “

China is far from being inactive in its fight against global warming. It has taken a lot of initiatives in the field of renewable energies, set up a considerable number of wind turbines, is strong in solar panels production, etc.

But for western ecologist militants, the question is: how to assess what kind of impact this refusal of multilateralism might have. If China were to block any international accord it regards as interference in its internal affairs, should the ecologists, in spite of all, continue to defend such projects with their respective governments? What’s the best way to tackle any international problem when faced with a non-democratic superpower where the ecologist movement is still in its infancy?

Should economic measures, such as the controversial border tax on CO2 products be considered? What other way could be found to work with the Chinese? .

The same question had already been raised, at the time when multilateralism was a non word in the America of George W. Bush. But you could hope that this would change after his eight years mandate. The current attitude of the American Congress shows that it might not be as simple as it seems.

And that is the crux of the matter. Because some of the greater achievements of the ecologist movement are the international agreements which have been concluded over the last thirty years: Ramsar 1971, Montreal 1987, Rio 1988, Stockholm 2001, etc. Is it the end of an era?

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