He Yafei, China’s vice foreign minister and most senior climate negotiator, told the FT on Sunday that his country would not be demanding funding from the developed world to help it combat climate change. This is just as well, as US climate change envoy Todd Stern has emphatically ruled out any US aid for China, saying China was wealthy enough to fund its own efforts.
However in the same interview, Mr He voiced concerns that rich countries were preparing to blame Beijing if the Copenhagen talks failed.
China has long feared being blamed for the failure of climate talks – far more so than, say, many US Congress members.
While China is talking (and arguably, playing) tough at the talks, and has been doing so in the months and years leading up to the meeting, it is realistic. China, along with other big economies, has already ceded ground on some areas - technology transfer, for example.
Mr He also spoke to Xinhua, telling the official outlet that failure was ‘not an option’ and emphasising China’s commitments so far:
Mr He said China is doing no less than other countries, and even better, in combating climate change. He cited China’s carbon intensity reduction target, saying China aims higher than developed countries.
Carbon emissions per unit of GDP in developed countries were reduced by 26 percent from 1990 to 2005 and will decrease by 30-40 percent by 2020 under their current commitments, but China has pledged a 40-45 percent cut, he said.
It seems fairly clear that China believes the ball is now in the US court – but as a column at China.org.cn acknowledged, much will hinge on what the US Congress does:
Due to American domestic politics and the economic recession, many world leaders have legitimate reasons to question whether the U.S. is truly dedicated to de-carbonization.
But as as Christopher Caldwell wrote in the Weekend FT, responsibility for emissions is not as simple as it appears :
It is less accurate to say that China has a large carbon footprint than to say that China is the place where the world’s carbon footprint is located. The gases its factories emit are required to manufacture the stuff that western consumers think they need. China’s pollution makes the US and Europe cleaner than they would be if they did that manufacturing themselves. Similarly, US pollution, the result more of consumption than production, enriches the exporting countries of Europe and Asia.
US envoy says no money for China (FT Energy Source, 09/12/09)
China’s carbon intensity targets explained (FT Energy Source, 30/11/09)
The Copenhagen position of China and India: Not always what it seems (FT Energy Source, 03/11/09 )