China and US blame each other in climate stand-off
Tianjin, China (AFP) Oct 9, 2010
The United States and China clashed on the final day of climate change talks on Saturday, accusing each other of blocking progress ahead of a major summit next month on global warming.
The world's two biggest greenhouse gas polluters sparred throughout the six-day United Nations talks in China, triggering anger from environmentalists who said countries were acting in self-interest and not to save the planet.
US climate envoy Jonathan Pershing warned progress at the UN's annual climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, was in jeopardy because of China's refusal to commit to curbing greenhouse gases.
"We have made some very modest progress. But unfortunately it's been quite limited," Pershing said of the talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin.
Delegates from more than 170 countries joined the latest round of long-running UN negotiations aimed at eventually securing a binding global treaty on how to limit and cope with climate change.
This would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012 and aims to keep global warming below the threshold that scientists warn will trigger catastrophic damage to the world's climate system.
World leaders failed to broker such a treaty in Copenhagen last year as developed and developing nations battled over who should carry more of the burden in curbing greenhouse gases, which are blamed for global warming.
Pershing said the biggest problem remained the refusal by China and other developing nations to commit through the UN process to curbing their emissions, and to have those efforts monitored and verified.
"These elements are at the heart of the deal. And the lack of progress on these gives us concern about the prospects for Cancun," he said, insisting this was an element agreed to in Copenhagen.
China, on the other hand, insisted all week that the United States and other rich nations should do much more to curb their emissions, highlighting their historic responsibility for the problem.
China's chief climate negotiator, Su Wei, said the United States was throwing up smokescreens to hide its own inaction.
"It's not fair to criticise if you are not doing anything," he said.
Su earlier referred to a Chinese saying that roughly translates as "a pig looking in a mirror" with reference to the United States and what he said was Washington's refusal to acknowledge its own faults.
The UN's climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said the rift had not derailed the Tianjin talks and that important progress had been made on specific issues.
"I would dare say that this week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancun," said Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"This week governments had to address together what was doable in Cancun.... They have actually done that."
She said she was confident a plan by rich nations to give developing countries 30 billion dollars to help them cope with climate change would be finalised at Cancun, helping build trust between the two sides.
"I have said and I will continue to say that fast-track finance is the golden key to Cancun. I am confident that the golden key will be dutifully unlocked," she said.
Greenpeace international climate policy director Wendel Trio criticised the hardline stance of the major players in the talks.
"Governments should look at what they can do for the climate, not what the process can do for them," Trio said.
The talks were to end later Saturday after a final session for delegates to discuss the week's events.
Amid the gridlock, a grassroots movement headed by the 350.org and tcktcktck.org environment groups was gearing up for what they said would be the world's biggest day of climate change action on Sunday.
People in more than 180 countries will plant trees, install solar panels, plant organic vegetables and perform other acts to help the environment during the "Global Work Party".
earlier related report
The 10/10/10 event known as the "Global Work Party" kicked off in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific before moving to Asia and was set to spin its way across the globe via more than 7,000 community events in 188 countries.
"The only countries that aren't taking part, we think, are Equatorial Guinea, San Marino, North Korea, so it's clearly the most widespread day of environmental action," co-founder of the 350.org campaign Bill McKibben said.
"And as far as we can tell, the most widespread day of civic engagement on any issue ever in the planet's history."
The events come as long-running United Nations efforts to broker a global deal to tackle global warming have stalled, and McKibben said while organisers had feared that people would be disillusioned by this, the opposite was true.
"People are discouraged but they are taking out their frustrations in action," he told AFP via telephone from Washington.
"They have decided that we are going to have to show our leaders what leadership looks like."
Thousands of people from throughout Asia, including from some of its most impoverished areas, joined the initiative through various events organised at grass-roots level, Manila-based coordinator Joyce Sierra said.
"I think this is a very clear message to the leaders of the world that the people in every developing country in Asia ... who are most vulnerable to climate change impact, are taking actions into their hands," she said.
In Beijing, hundreds of volunteers walked through the city collecting trash as a "symbol of how much waste is in the public sphere", said Christian Teriete of the Global Campaign for Climate Action.
More than 30,000 students from some 200 Chinese universities launched a nationwide programme calling for climate action through practical measures, such as removing rubbish from local areas.
"This was the biggest show of youth environmental action in China's history," media spokeswoman Joanna Wong said.
"It is about China's youth showing the world they want to take responsibility for our country's green future."
In the Philippine capital Manila, thousands of people joined a run on Sunday to raise awareness about the Pasig River -- a major waterway that is heavily polluted.
And in Australia, the call for practical action resulted in gardeners sharing tips on going green, bicycle rides to urge less use of carbon-polluting cars, the planting of trees and public talks on reducing household emissions.
Every island in the Pacific took part in the event, from a "no car" campaign in Tonga to cycling events in Papua New Guinea, tree planting in tropical Fiji and gardening in New Zealand, coordinator Aaron Packard said.
"Often I find the issue of climate change pretty depressing when you look into the details of it," he said.
"But the thing that really gives me hope is the way the people of the Pacific have responded.
"It's just incredible because you know darn well they have done so little to contribute to climate change but they are some of the most vocal, the most willing, to get to work and do really inspiring things."
The 350.org campaign, named for the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists say is the safe limit for humanity, is spearheading actions around the world that take in events in Afghanistan, Russia and the US.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, war refugees will plant a "Forest of Hope" while in Iraq, students will install solar panels on the roof of the University of Babylon.
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Tianjin, China (AFP) Oct 8, 2010
Environment groups are gearing up for what they say will be the world's biggest day of climate change action on Sunday, hoping their grassroots movement will inspire reluctant world leaders. People in more than 180 countries will plant trees, install solar panels, plant organic vegetables and perform other acts to help the environment during the "Global Work Party" that has been organised la ... read more
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