TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Mar10/02)
17 March 2010
Third World Network

Chinese PM clarifies what happened in Copenhagen
Published in SUNS #6885 dated 17 March 2010 

Beijing, 16 Mar (Chee Yoke Ling) -- China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao set the record straight on why he was personally not at a small meeting of leaders last 17 December during the final hours of the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen.

At a news conference on Sunday (14 March) at the Great Hall of the People, attended by more than 800 Chinese and foreign reporters to mark the conclusion of the 10-day annual session of the National People's Congress (the country's parliament), Wen for the first time spoke publicly on the climate talks in Copenhagen that had ended in chaos and mistrust.

An article in the Asian Wall Street Journal (15 March) reported that Wen "showed flashes of emotion as he sought to correct a widespread belief that he snubbed [US President Barack Obama] by sending a lower-ranking official to a meeting".

According to the Journal, Wen quoted an ancient Chinese proverb, "My conscience is clear despite the slander of others". Instead, he argued, it was China that felt insulted.

Wen clarified that he and the Chinese delegation had not received any invitation to that meeting held after a banquet hosted for attending heads of state and government by Danish Queen Margrethe II on 17 December.

The 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 5th Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol were held on 7-18 December.

Due to the controversial "Copenhagen Accord" - a political document that failed to get consensus of the Convention Parties and was finally only "taken note of" - the closing plenary started only in the early hours of 19 December and ended late afternoon of that day when almost all the leaders had left.

There was confusion and frustration caused by un-transparent meetings of small groups of leaders convened, reportedly by the Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, to strike a political deal so that Copenhagen would not be perceived as a failure.

This took place in the last two days of the conference even as technical negotiators who have worked for more than two years continued to strive for agreement with some potential breakthroughs.

In the aftermath of the Copenhagen conference, China was said to have been uncooperative and even obstructive with various accounts in mainstream news articles on alleged events in a number of closed door meetings of selected heads of state.

From various accounts by diplomats who were in Copenhagen, and now confirmed by Wen, the after-dinner meeting on 17 December was the first of such meetings.

At last Sunday's news conference, Wen said he learned from a European country's leader, at a banquet hosted by the Danish Queen, about the meeting that would be held later in the evening, and saw China was on the list of the meeting's participating countries.

He immediately told the Chinese delegation to check and confirmed that no notification had been received.

However, he decided to send Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei to the meeting on behalf of the Chinese delegation.

According to a 14 March Xinhua report on the Sunday's news conference, Wen said that the diplomatic snub and ensuing rebukes against the Chinese delegation during last year's Copenhagen climate summit were "still a mystery."

"I was shocked as I had received no notification that China was invited to the 17 December meeting. We haven't received any explanation until now," he said.

The premier made the remarks when a foreign journalist asked for comment on his "decision not to attend a key meeting" and the Chinese delegation to the Copenhagen conference being perceived as "arrogant".

"It still perplexes me why some people keep trying to make an issue about China (in this regard)," Wen said.

A detailed account of the 60 hours Wen spent in Copenhagen for the climate talks was published on the web on 25 December by two Xinhua correspondents who had accompanied and covered the premier's trip. This had not been picked up by news agencies and publications outside China.

According to this account, "At a banquet hosted by Danish Queen Margrethe II on December 17 evening, Premier Wen was told that the United States would hold a small-scope meeting between several countries' leaders after the dinner.

"During his talk with a foreign leader, Premier Wen learnt China was on the list of the meeting's participating countries while he himself was not invited and neither did the Chinese delegation receive a notice for the mysterious meeting.

"Why was the Chinese delegation not informed? Premier Wen felt quite astonished and was vigilant after he confirmed the meeting with other foreign leaders".

At last Sunday's news conference, Wen also spoke of the letters he had written to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, respectively, at the end of January expressing in clear-cut terms that China highly commends and supports the Copenhagen Accord.

Those same letters reaffirm China's position that the UN is the forum for resumed climate talks and that a third process outside of that was not acceptable (See SUNS #6881 dated 11 March 2010).

"The issue of climate change concerns human survival, the interests of all countries, and equity and justice in our international communities," Wen reportedly said. "We are fully justified to stick to the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibilities'".

China has pledged and sent this formally to the UN climate change convention secretariat, that it seeks to lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. +