TIANJIN, China (Reuters) - China hit back on Saturday at U.S. claims it was shirking in the fight against climate change, likening the criticisms to a mythic pig preening itself.
Frustration between the world’s two top carbon polluters overshadowed week-long U.N. talks seeking progress on the shape of a new climate pact, with negotiators making some progress on financing but failing to dispel fears the process could end in deadlock.
Su Wei, a senior Chinese climate change negotiator, swiped at comments from top U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern as the climate change talks drew to a close in the north Chinese city of Tianjin.
Stern, in remarks at a U.S. university, said Beijing could not insist rich nations take on fixed targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions while China and other big emerging nations adopt only voluntary domestic goals.
Su countered that Stern’s claims were a diversion from the United States’ failure to make big cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases causing global warming.
Su likened the U.S. criticism to Zhubajie, a pig in a classic Chinese novel, which in a traditional saying preens itself in a mirror.
“It has no measures or actions to show for itself, and instead it criticises China, which is actively taking measures and actions,” Su said of the United States.
The talks in Tianjin reached firmer agreement on funding for poor countries hit by global warming, green technology transfers, and other steps intended to build momentum for more high-level treaty talks in Cancun, Mexico, from the end of next month.
Cancun is meant to be the stepping stone to a legally binding deal next year that would lock in governments into reducing greenhouse gas pollution holding heat in the atmosphere and threatening to tip over into dangerous global warming.
Officials and activists in Tianjin said they were frustrated that more was not agreed in sessions that often dwelt on procedures. Talks on protecting carbon-absorbing rainforests languished.
“We’re moving in the right direction, but we certainly need to put our foot on the accelerator,” said Julie-Anne Richards of the Climate Action Network, which monitored the talks.
Progress this week should lead to some decisions in Cancun, said Wendel Trio, Greenpeace International climate policy director, but he pointed to the bickering that has dominated the Tianjin meeting. “At times it has been like watching children in a kindergarten,” he said.
The jabs between Beijing and Washington exposed a rift likely to keep dogging talks: to what extent China should be regarded in treaties as an emerging economy free of fixed greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.’s main weapon against climate change, ends in 2012 and what follows from 2013 is under contention.
The Protocol makes an either-or distinction between rich countries, which take on fixed targets to cut emissions, and developing countries, including China. The U.S. is not a party.
Nearly 200 governments failed to agree last year on a new legally binding deal. A meeting in Copenhagen last December ended in bitter exchanges between rich and developing countries and created a loose accord with many gaps.
Stern accused Beijing of sliding away from the Copenhagen Accord and said it established that China should be treated much like other big polluters.
China has said it will not accept such a change.
China also demands that advanced economies, responsible for most of the industrial pollution fuelling global warming, must commit to deep cuts in emissions, giving poorer societies more room to grow their economies and greenhouse gas output.
The top U.S. negotiator in Tianjin, Jonathan Pershing, demanded China and other big emerging nations expose their domestic emissions goals to tighter international scrutiny and put them in a new binding pact that succeeds Kyoto.
“These elements are at the heart of the deal and the lack of progress on them gives us concern,” Pershing told reporters.
“The danger we face now is that the essential balance that allowed progress to be made is in jeopardy.”
Editing by David Fogarty