United Nations Climate Talks Stall in China

Can they reach an agreement?

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A multi-lateral United Nations climate conference, sponsored by China in Tianjin, has yet to achieve a consensus on how the global community should organize to fight climate change and limit energy use. The talks are a prologue to the much larger United Nations climate summit planned for Cancun, Mexico, next month. Here's what happening at the China conference and what it means for the global fight against climate change.

  • How Much Responsibility for China?  Voice of America's Stephanie Ho explains that the central challenge is determining how to allocate the burden for fixing climate change. "While many of the negotiators for a global climate change accord consider it a pressing issue, there is less agreement on how to share the burden of tackling the problem. ... One of the big sticking points is whether there should be binding targets to reduce emissions. Although China has overtaken the United States to become the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Beijing refuses to commit to targets because it says it is still a developing nation."
  • For China, Economics Trump Environment  Bloomberg's Stuart Biggs writes, "China’s plan to begin carbon trading may be held up by negotiations with cities and industries over how to set a limit for emissions, China’s National Development and Reform Commission said. ... The negotiations are 'difficult' because any cap set on emissions will inhibit economic development at a time when the central government’s priority is raising living standards for the more than 150 million Chinese who subsist at poverty levels, according to Sun Cuihua, deputy chief of the climate-change department at the national planner."
  • Battle Lines: Developing vs Developed Nations  The Agence France-Presse explains, "The conference has so far been unable to heal the deep rifts between developed and developing countries that led to the failure by world leaders to broker a binding deal in Copenhagen last year." Although developing nations produce a substantial amount of pollution, they are more economically dependent on cheap energy than rich nations. Therefore those developing nations, such as China and India, insist on looser standards. But developed nations, such as the U.S., argue that any climate agreement is useless without the support of developing polluters.
  • Of Course They'll Fail  The National Post's Kelly McParland snarks, "Stop the Presses: UN climate talks may fail. ... Here’s a shock. Is everyone sitting down? You might want to prepare yourself. ... Wow, can you imagine? The United Nations, that model for efficiency and effectiveness, is having trouble coming to agreement on a treaty to deal with greenhouse gas emissions. ... Boy, you know there’s something screwy in the world when even the UN can’t get China and the U.S. to agree on something. Because the UN is usually so successful."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.