November 25, 2009 / 3:28 AM / 10 years ago

China says content, not form, key to climate pact

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will rate the success of the Copenhagen climate summit by the actual content of any deal reached, a top negotiator said on Wednesday, in Beijing’s first hint it accepts there will not be a legally binding pact.

Yu Qingtai, the country’s climate change ambassador, blamed developed nations for the slow progress of two years of talks, a delay that has effectively put Copenhagen’s original goal — of completing a new framework to fight warming — out of reach.

The Danish government, host of the December talks, has proposed that the world delay a final legal agreement until 2010 and instead aim to reach a comprehensive political deal.

“As for what success can be expected from Copenhagen, many sides including the host country Denmark, have made proposals,” Yu said, when asked about the plan.

“We think that the actual content of whatever is achieved is more important than the title of the document that is produced,” Yu said. China had previously said only that it was “studying” the Danish proposal.

Yu’s comments suggested China would accept a political deal, but his strong denunciation of broken promises and selfish behavior by developed countries was a reminder of the obstacles to tying up a deal in the few weeks before a December 18 deadline.

Talks have been hobbled by a rift between rich and poorer nations over who should cut emissions, by how much, and who should pay for it.

“In the last two years, we have wasted a lot of time on marginal issues, technical issues, we haven’t focused on the core questions in the negotiations,” Yu said.

“Why have we spent two years talking without making enough progress? I personally think it is because developed countries have not sat down to the negotiations in good faith. This is not just my view, it is the wider consensus of developing nations.

AWAITING TARGETS

Beijing has invested large amounts of diplomatic capital in reaching a deal. President Hu Jintao earlier this year unveiled the country’s first pledge to curb carbon emissions — by cutting so-called carbon intensity a “notable” amount — at a United Nations summit.

It has not yet revealed what the target would be but is widely expected to do so ahead of, or at, the Copenhagen summit.

In a boost to the meeting, the United States also said this week it will propose an emissions target, though it must win support from U.S. lawmakers who are needed to put it into law.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants to see an agreement with “immediate operational effect.”

But his administration has until now been reluctant to put an emissions reduction target on the table because the Senate has yet to pass a sweeping climate bill.

Yu said that any agreement in Copenhagen must lock-in all deals struck so far. Sealing arrangements to shift funding and technology to poorer nations could make a delayed final pact more palatable to the developing world.

Additional reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Bill Tarrant

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