COPENHAGEN:

U.S. envoy 'lacks common sense,' Chinese diplomat says

COPENHAGEN -- Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei lashed out today at U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern, calling "extremely irresponsible" his recent pronouncement that no American climate change funding would go to China.

Speaking to reporters at a U.N. climate change conference where nearly 200 countries are trying to negotiate an international emissions agreement, He said he was "shocked" by Stern's comments.

Industrialized countries are expected to deliver billions of dollars through midcentury to help poorer nations avert climate disasters and develop low fossil-fuel economies. The United States and other nations have proposed $10 billion through 2012 but have not made it clear how much they would make available beyond that. Yet even that short-term funding should not go to China -- at least not the U.S. share, Stern said earlier this week.

"I don't envision public funds, certainly not from the United States, going to China," Stern said (Greenwire, Dec. 9).

He and other Chinese leaders this week have enumerated points in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol -- which the United States never joined -- and a separate agreement reached two years ago in Bali, Indonesia, that the United States did sign. Both detail financial commitments that industrialized countries have to developing ones. China, despite holding more than $2 trillion in foreign reserves, is considered a developing country in the U.N. climate regime and is therefore entitled to funding.

Of Stern's comments, He said, "I think he lacks common sense when he made such a comment vis-à-vis China. He either lacks common sense or is extremely irresponsible."

Yet even as he challenged wealthy countries to "live up to their responsibilities," the minister danced around the issue of whether China wants the money for itself.

He noted that China currently is working to make 15 percent of its energy renewable, and cut energy intensity 20 percent, on top of a new goal to slash carbon emissions based on economic growth. That, he said, is all being done without international support. But he said, the United States and others have a "legal obligation" to pay up.

"It is already settled in the protocol," He said. "Developing countries will have funds. ... As to what countries will get how much, that is a different issue."

The minister drew a similar line when asked about international monitoring of emission efforts. Whether China will allow outside verification has become a serious sticking point in the talks. U.S. lawmakers say they distrust China's vows to slash the growth of global warming pollution, yet China so far is refusing to allow outsiders to inspect its system.

"It's a matter of principle," He said.

China, he said, is willing to announce the results of emission efforts in a series of reports, "so there is no problem with transparency."

At the U.S. press briefing today, Stern said He's remarks about the public funding issue and China were "a bit unfortunate."

"But I don't have a different view to the one I expressed [Wednesday] on the underlying substance," he said. "The United States is fully in support of significant financial assistance for developing countries. It certainly continues to be my view that it ought to go to the countries most in need."

Stern added that China may have access to short-term funding in ways beyond the U.S. appropriations process. "There's also a whole other side of financing that involves carbon markets that is entirely driven by the private sector," he explained. "Their investments can go in all sorts of directions."

Senior reporter Darren Samuelsohn contributed.

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