December 21, 2009 / 5:08 PM / 10 years ago

Britain blames China for climate talks' failure

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain accused China and a handful of others on Monday of holding the world to ransom by blocking a legal treaty to fight global warming as countries traded blame for the deadlock in Copenhagen.

Greenpeace staff and supporters hold a candlelight vigil with posters reading "Freedom from Climate Injustice" outside a prison in Copenhagen in this undated handout. REUTERS/Christian Slund/Greenpeace/Handout

Describing the climate change summit as “at best flawed and at worst chaotic,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanded urgent reform of the process to try to reach a legal treaty when the talks resume in Germany next June.

The summit ended with a underwhelming agreement on Saturday when delegates “noted” an accord struck by the United States, China and other emerging powers that fell far short of original goals.

“Never again should we face the deadlock that threatened to pull down these talks,” said Brown, who tried to take a lead role in the talks.

“Never again should we let a global deal to move toward a greener future be held to ransom by only a handful of countries.”

The failure to reach a legal treaty sent European carbon prices to a six-month low on Monday.

The accord set a target of limiting global warming to a maximum 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times — seen as a threshold for dangerous changes such as more floods, droughts and rising seas. But it did not say how this would be achieved.

It held out the prospect of $100 billion in annual aid from 2020 for developing nations, but did not specify precisely where this money would come from. Decisions on core issues such as emissions cuts were pushed into the future.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the deal was an “important breakthrough,” but only one step on the road toward the emissions cuts needed. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said it was “a success ... a significant step forward.”


China said it would treat talks on a binding climate pact in 2010 as a struggle over the “right to develop,” signaling more tough deal-making to come.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of man-made greenhouse gases was at the heart of the talks, and demonstrated a growing assertiveness in grinding late-night talks.

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said: “It was a result that came from hard work on all sides, was accepted by all, didn’t come easy and should be treasured,” adding that China was willing to build on the Copenhagen deal.

With governments, environmental groups and charities swapping blame for the failure in the Danish capital, Britain pointed the finger at China, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Sudan.

British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said China held the key to the world agreeing to a legal treaty, but it must first realize that a deal will not damage its economy.

“The most important thing for a country like China is to persuade them that they have nothing to fear from a legal treaty,” Miliband said. “I can’t see how you can have a legal treaty for the future without all countries being bound by it.”

Negative reaction to the accord came to a boil in Germany, where environmental groups, churches, industrialists and economists slammed the compromise as a disaster.

“Governments around the world have failed their populations in the climate deal,” said Dennis Snower, president of the Kiel-based Institute for World Economy (IfW).

Slideshow (13 Images)

The European Union, criticized for failing to raise its unilateral emissions cut offer to 30 percent from 20 percent, was ill-prepared for Copenhagen, said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the Greens’ co-president in the European Parliament.

“Diplomats aren’t ready to negotiate over climate change, unlike disarmament or crises. They know how to handle immediate problems, not the long term,” he told French paper Liberation.

Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in Beijing; Brian Rohan in Berlin; Sophie Hardach in Paris; Patrick Worsnip in New York; William James and Michael Szabo in London; editing by Robin Pomeroy

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