Newspaper Reveals Copenhagen Climate Talks' High Drama

Newspaper Reveals Copenhagen Climate Talks' High Drama

Image CC licensed by Flickr CIAT - International Center for Tropical Agricultu

Turmoil plagued the Copenhagen climate talks in December as world leaders grappled with creating a strong agreement that secured little support from emerging superpowers China and India.

A more complete picture of the final hours of the negotiations surfaced this week when the German newspaper Der Spiegel revealed it had obtained audio recordings of an hour-and-a-half meeting that took place among world leaders before the U.S., China, Brazil and India created the Copenhagen Accord. The modest agreement is not legally binding, allows individual countries to set their own emissions reduction targets and lacks 2020 and 2050 reduction targets.

The newspaper reconstructed a scene that pitted China and India against developed nations in their opposition to any binding emissions reduction targets that could slow their rapidly growing economies.

During this meeting, a draft proposal was circulated that still contained language calling for a 50 percent decline in emissions by 2050. Scientists recommend emissions drop 50-80 percent by 2050 to avoid global temperature rise of greater than 2 degrees.

"Let us suppose 100 percent reduction, that is, no CO2 in the developed countries anymore," German chancellor Angela Merkel said. "Even then, with the (target of) two degrees, you have to reduce carbon emissions in the developing countries. That is the truth."

According to Der Spiegel, the Chinese negotiator sent in place of the country's premier Wen Jiabao, responded politely: "Thank you for all these suggestions. We have said very clearly that we must not accept the 50 percent reductions. We cannot accept it."

The refusal angered French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"With all due respect to China," Sarkozy is heard saying in French, noting that the West had pledged to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050. "And in return, China, which will soon be the biggest economic power in the world, says to the world: Commitments apply to you, but not to us. This is utterly unacceptable."

U.S. President Barack Obama stressed that it would be difficult to significantly address climate change without mutual efforts from developing countries.

"From the perspective of the developed countries, in order for us to be able to mobilize the political will within each of our countries to not only engage in substantial mitigation efforts ourselves, which are very difficult," he said, "but to also then channel some of the resources from our countries into developing countries, is a very heavy lift."

He Yafei, the Chinese negotiator, placed the burden of addressing climate change on the shoulders of the developed nations.

"In the past 200 years of industrialization developed countries contributed more than 80 percent of emissions," Yafei said. "Whoever created this problem is responsible for the catastrophe we are facing."

Yafei called for a break, during which China met with Brazil, India and South Africa. Obama burst into the meeting before the group drafted the Copenhagen Accord, which was "noted" at the end of the conference.

Image CC licensed by Flickr CIAT - International Center for Tropical Agriculture.