- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A senior Obama administration official Tuesday criticized China and other leading developing countries for trying to weaken the deal struck in Copenhagen to fight global warming and raised the prospect that a fuller international pact may be not be reached this year.

A U.N.-sponsored climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December fell far short of its intended goal of producing a binding treaty, but did take some nonbinding steps toward further controlling greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

“The statements that we have seen from China and the other BASIC countries do evince a desire to limit the impact of the accord,” said Todd Stern, President Obama’s senior climate negotiator. The BASIC countries are Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

Mr. Stern complained that major developing powers were vague in how they would carry out pollution-reduction programs under the Copenhagen deal and warned that countries should not “cherry-pick” parts of the Copenhagen Accord that they like, while ignoring other provisions.

“This is not, after all, a casual agreement,” he said.

The next annual global meeting, starting in late November, will be hosted by Mexico with the goal of reaching a binding treaty for 190 countries to deal with climate change after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Mr. Stern described the Copenhagen meeting as a “snarling, aggravated, chaotic event” that at one point “really did appear to be doomed.”

Anticipating more tough negotiations this year leading up to Mexico, he said in a speech at the Center for American Progress that he still hoped a full binding treaty can be reached. But he added that falling short of that goal would not mean a failure and that countries needed to focus on taking “significant, pragmatic steps.”

The Copenhagen Accord was hammered out in the final hours of a two-week marathon that saw world leaders in nitty-gritty negotiations. The deal was largely brokered by Mr. Obama and BASIC leaders in last-minute talks. Together, the five countries contribute about one-half of global carbon dioxide pollution.

But since leaders and diplomats left Copenhagen, some of the major developing countries have been criticized as being less than enthusiastic about the deal.

The failure of the United Nations to wrap up a binding climate deal has prompted some to question whether smaller forums might be more effective in finding ways to force countries to reduce their fossil fuel use in favor of alternative energy such as solar and wind power.

Mr. Stern said there were “quite intense discussions” under way about the process for going forward this year and “we’re going to see probably a number of different places where discussion occurs.”

Despite disappointments in Copenhagen, Mr. Stern praised the accord for calling on countries to set carbon emission reduction targets aimed at keeping Earth temperatures from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels and for breaking new ground on aid for poor nations.

Mr. Stern said the Copenhagen Accord should influence further global negotiations. But overall it’s “more a sketch than a painting.”

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