China's Copenhagen Presence

If the leaders of the People's Republic just don't care about climate change, as their critics sometimes claim, they're doing a very good job of suggesting the opposite at Copenhagen COP15 conference

2 min read

As I write this, I happen to be sitting in Holland house, where the Dutch have been presenting a two-week-long round-the-clock program of climate-related panels, many of them about water, naturally. The scope and physical scale of what they're doing is almost unique at the Copenhagen climate conference, though just across the corridor Brazil has a similar presence, much of it devoted to agribusiness and cane ethanol production. That focus is not so surprising either. But what's really a little startling is China's nearby setup, a climate information center that in terms of physical scope and programmatic ambition is the equal of Holland's and Brazil's, and by the same token more impressive than anything any other country is doing here as part of the parallel or "side" meetings.

The COP15 climate conference basically has two parts, the negotiations among the nearly 200 countries that are party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and a parallel exhibition and program of activities sponsored by non-governmental organizations. Physically, the two parts are co-located and inter-penetrate, though participants who obtained accreditation as members of NGOs are not invited to negotiations and cannot attend many of the events staged by or for state delegations. (The difficulties many NGO participants had obtaining access to the conference complex have been widely reported in the world press; as a person with NGO accreditation, I personally was unable to get into the conference complex on Monday, even though I was scheduled to participate in a panel that afternoon; and I got in on Tuesday only after standing in line for seven hours with many hundreds of other NGO people. Today I got right in as I now have the required badge, but the conference has stopped issuing any new NGO badges, whether one is pre-accredited or not, evidently because the numbers attached to state party delegations are greater than expected.)

But I digress. Here at the far back side of the conference complex, where state delegations have their offices and semi-official groupings such as Holland's and Brazil's have their set-ups as well, China has one of the most impressive exhibitions. At this moment, as I listen to Europeans talk about trans-boundary water cooperation, next door Mr. Ding Zhongli is delivering his "Presentation  on Critical Evaluation for Long-term Carbon Emissions Reduction by IPCC, G8, OECD, etc." On the racks outside the room where he's talking are glossy official publications with titles like "China's Fiscal Policy on Climate Change" and "Addressing Climate Change: China in Action," as well as an impressive packet from the Laboratory of Low Carbon Energy at Tsinghua University, the Beijing institution that's routinely described as the country's MIT.

Most pertinent of the publications on display, at a time when the U.S. and Chinese delegations are trading public jibes about who will be most to blame if this conference fails, is a one pager called "Developing the Energy and Climate Registry in China." The United States has been pressing China to accept international verification of their greenhouse gas emissions, but to judge from what China is showing and telling here, they're already doing that verification and don't need or want outside help.


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