China defends Wen Jiabao's role in Copenhagen talks

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday defended the role played by premier Wen Jiabao at climate change talks in Copenhagen this month after a barrage of international criticism blaming China for obstructing negotiations.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao addresses the session of United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen December 18, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong

The Copenhagen meeting ended with a broad political agreement but left specifics to be ironed out in 2010, angering many of the poorest nations as well as Western groups who had hoped for a more ambitious commitment.

China insisted that firm targets agreed to by European nations not be included in the final deal, and Wen himself was absent from a final round of direct negotiations between national leaders. British climate minister Ed Miliband said China and its allies had “hijacked” talks, according to the Guardian newspaper.

In a long account of the Copenhagen meeting, Xinhua gave Wen credit for “the last minute attempt to exchange ideas and reach consensus” despite his belief that it was “impossible” to reach a legally binding agreement.

“China showed the greatest sincerity, tried its best and played a constructive role,” Xinhua said.

Issues of verification of emissions cut pledges plagued the meeting, with rich nations saying China’s efforts to slow greenhouse gas growth should be subject to international verification to ensure that Beijing is keeping its word. China has said such checks would violate its sovereignty.

“On the transparency issue in self-mitigation actions, Wen said China was willing to conduct talks and cooperation,” Xinhua said.

China has made its own pledges to reduce carbon intensity, or the amount of emissions produced per unit of GDP, but blocked European countries from including their commitment to cut absolute emissions by 80 percent by 2050, as well as commitments to specific dates when emissions would peak.

Other Reuters sources had also said China blocked the inclusion of specific targets.

Xinhua acknowledged Wen’s absence from the late night meetings on Dec 17, saying that Wen had not been informed, and had learned the Chinese delegation was included in the meeting list from another, unidentified foreign leader.

“Premier Wen felt quite astonished and was vigilant,” Xinhua said, adding that China sent a vice foreign minister instead.

The U.S. administration has played up President Barack Obama’s role in breaking through a deadlock by arriving unannounced at a meeting of the heads of China, Brazil, India and South Africa, all powerful developing countries concerned that emissions concessions could impede growth.

Xinhua said that meeting -- which occurred as the U.S. sought a meeting with China and was rebuffed from meeting the others -- represented Wen’s efforts to reach consensus before bringing a final deal to the Western nations and poorest developing nations.

Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by David Fox