The Chinese premier Wen Jiabao will meet one-on-one with President Barack Obama soon in Copenhagen to try to reach agreement on a new international climate treaty, according to He Yafei, the vice chairman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
“Yes, I believe so,” responded He in the hallways of Copenhagen’s Bella Center, when he was asked if Wen and Obama, the heads of government of the world’s two climate superpowers, would meet to resolve outstanding differences.
Wen, whose country is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases on an annual basis, arrived in Copenhagen yesterday for the UN climate summit. Obama, whose country is the world’s largest emitter on a cumulative basis, is due to arrive in time for the summit’s concluding sessions on Friday, December 18. Together, the two countries are responsible for 42 percent of the world’s annual emissions, making their actions crucial to the effort to combat global warming.
In a major break from past climate change diplomacy, Obama and Chinese president Hu Jintao agreed in Beijing in November that both nations would limit their future emissions–the first the two climate superpowers had made that promise to the international community–and also that they would work together for a successful outcome to the Copenhagen summit.
But as the summit approaches its final 24 hours, the difference between the proposals on the table and established climate science remains vast. A document leaked this afternoon from the United Nations agency organizing the summit, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, stated the the proposals currently on offer will lead to an estimated global temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, well beyond what scientists believe is safe and what virtually all governments assembled here rhetorically support. The governments of the US and other members of the Group of 8 rich industrial countries pledged in July 2009 to limit global temperatures to 2 Celsius. More than 100 nations, mainly the poor and island states that are most vulnerable to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change, have called on the Copenhagen summit to endorse a goal of 1.5Celsius.
“Anything more than that, and we’ve had it,” said Mohammed Nasheed, the president of Maldives.
At a press conference this afternoon in Copenhagen, He said that, according to Premier Wen, the final text of the agreement under discussion in Copenhagen could include a limit of 2C as a “long-term,” aspirational goal. But “to make it a balanced approach,” He added, the text should make it clear that the fight against poverty is to remain the top priority for developing countries.