President Obama and Premier Wen Speak at Copenhagen - Still Deadlocked


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Around noon here today, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and U.S. President Barack Obama bracketed Brazilian President Lula da Silva on the podium at the plenary of the Copenhagen climate change conference. My off-the-cuff analysis is that neither man appeared to budge from their negotiating positions, leaving still in doubt how the negotiations might conclude.

Premier Wen listed his country's recent energy efficiency accomplishments and other climate-friendly activities such as a massive reforestation effort. However, Wen insisted that the Kyoto Protocol remain as the guide for negotiations which signals that developing countries, including China, do not have to make legally binding commitments to control their greenhouse gas emissions. Wen reiterated China's promise to increase its carbon intensity (amount of carbon per unit of GDP) by 40 to 45 percent by 2020. Wen also noted that the China had reduced its carbon intensity by 46 percent between 1992 and 2005. So the new target seems to be pretty much on the business-as-usual path, not an additional commitment to control emissions. 

For his part, President Obama did not offer deeper greenhouse gas emissions cuts and he insisted that whatever deal is struck here in Copenhagen in must rest on three pillars: mitigation, transparency, and financing:

First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change. I'm pleased that many of us have already done so, and I'm confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050 in line with final legislation.

Second, we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we are living up to our obligations. For without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.

Third, we must have financing that helps developing countries adapt, particularly the least-developed and most vulnerable to climate change. America will be a part of fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012. And, yesterday, Secretary Clinton made it clear that we will engage in a global effort to mobilize $100 billion in financing by 2020, if – and only if – it is part of the broader accord that I have just described.

I was watching the speech in the press room and when it concluded I heard a few small boos from the assembled foreign journos.

It looks like the negotiations will be a cliffhanger (and that I'll end up being here all night).

Wen's speech is not online yet, but you can read Obama's here.