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Endeavors to build global hope: Chinese premier's 60 hours in Copenhagen

2010-01-11 07:39

Editor's note: Xinhua correspondents Zhao Cheng and Tian Fan, who accompanied and covered Premier Wen Jiabao's tour to the Copenhagen climate talks last week, recall in this following special report what they witnessed at the summit in the Danish capital. With close-in observations of Premier Wen's tight schedule and meetings with world leaders, their account is expected to shed light on some queries concerning the conference.

* What did Premier Wen tell world leaders?

* Why was Premier Wen missing from a mysterious small group meeting called by the United States?

* How was Copenhagen Accord finally reached after long, tough negotiations?

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao left Beijing for the climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark on Dec. 16, when pessimism and disappointment were simmering among negotiators, who, after about 10 days' bargaining, found a bridge to span their rift seemed a mission impossible.

"It will be a tough task. Now I can feel how heavy my duty is to attend the meeting on behalf of the Chinese government," Wen told reporters aboard his plane en route toCopenhagen.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao speaks at the leaders' meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference inCopenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 18, 2009. (Xinhua/Wu Wei)


Nevertheless, Wen said he was confident that the talks would bear fruit. "As so many world leaders are gathered there, I believe there should come some achievements," he said. "No matter what the result is,China's action plan will not change, its voluntary reduction target will always be non-negotiable, and its determination in hitting the target will never waver."



Premier Wen's schedule on Dec. 17 was almost fully occupied by meetings with world leaders.

During the meeting with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Wen suggested that in order to achieve an outcome for the conference, all parties should stick to the consensus they had reached while leaving differences for future negotiations. "Now it seems to be the only way out. If we can reach a resolution of such a kind, it could well be an achievement of the talks," Wen said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) shakes hands with UN Secrerary-General Ban Ki-moon during their meeting inCopenhagen, capital of Denmark, on Dec. 17, 2009. (Xinhua/Liu Jianshen)


In his talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who expressed that a fruitless conference would be unacceptable, Wen proposed to formulate a political document that may reflect the consensus of different parties.

"It is unrealistic to hope to fill in the gap between nearly 200 countries in less than two days.China and the people of the world all wish for the success of the meeting, and the current priority is to crystalize a consensus," Wen said.

He told the UN chief it was important to fix on the political aspiration to deliver confidence and hope to the world.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen(L) meets with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao inCopenhagen, capital of Denmark, Dec. 17, 2009.(Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)


The drafting of the final document must be transparent while concerns of different parties, especially developing countries, must be taken into consideration, Wen stressed.

Wen's talks with Ban was followed by the meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. They agreed that the two major developing countries must firmly stand with other developing countries to safeguard their common interests.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (3rd, R) poses for a group photo with President of the Maldvies Mohammed Nasheed (3rd, L), Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (2nd, L), Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (2nd, R), Grenadian Prime Minister Tillman Thomas (1st, R) and Sudanese Presidential Assistant Nafie Ali Nafie (1st, L) ahead of their meeting in Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, on Dec. 17, 2009.(Xinhua/Liu Jiansheng)


The Chinese premier's meeting with representatives of island countries and underdeveloped nations lasted for over two hours, the longest during his stay inCopenhagen.

Wen said althoughChina had always urged developed nations to fulfil their funding commitments, China would not vie for even a cent with other developing countries if such a fund were available.

In addition, China would continue to assist those countries to cope with climate change, Wen told President of the Maldives Mohammed Nasheed, Prime Minister of Grenada Tillman Thomas, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and Sudanese Presidential Assistant Nafie Ali Nafie.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) shakes hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel inCopenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 17, 2009. (Xinhua/Liu Jiansheng)


Wen's whirlwind negotiations that afternoon involved British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The three industrialized countries, though ambitious in leading international cooperation on climate change issues, lacked understanding of developing countries and had therefore raised some unrealistic and unfair requests.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) shakes hands with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown inCopenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 17, 2009. (Xinhua/Liu Jiansheng)


Once again, Wen urged all parties to stop pointing fingers at each other or bargaining at the critical moment of the talks. He saidChina's commitment on mitigation actions is "unconditional and non-negotiable." It was not conditioned on or linked with commitments by any other country, Wen said.

On the transparency issue in self mitigation actions, Wen saidChina was willing to conduct talks and cooperation.

He stressed that developing countries' major tasks in eradicating poverty and developing economy should not compromise the environment. But their development also required the developed world's understanding and support, both financially and in technology.

After the meetings, Wen immediately instructed Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei to hold a press conference to brief the world media on the talks, a move to fulfil his commitment to transparency.



At a banquet hosted by Danish Queen Margrethe II on Dec. 17 evening, Premier Wen was told that the United States would hold a small-scope meeting between several countries' leaders after the dinner.

During his talk with a foreign leader, Premier Wen learntChina was on the list of the meeting's participating countries while he himself was not invited and neither did the Chinese delegation receive a notice for the mysterious meeting.

Why was the Chinese delegation not informed? Premier Wen felt quite astonished and was vigilant after he confirmed the meeting with other foreign leaders.

During the conference, similar situations occurred when some countries proposed a draft resolution through clandestine negotiations, which went against the principle of openness and transparency and triggered strong discontent.

Premier Wen took the incident seriously and came back to his hotel immediately to call an emergent meeting to study countermeasures for the situation.

China's Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei addresses a press conference during the high-level segment of the United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, Dec. 17, 2009. (Xinhua/Zeng Yi)


On behalf of the Chinese delegation, Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei came to the meeting and expressed strong dissatisfaction to the convocator's ulterior motive for not informingChina.

He said that the meeting should be transparent and no participants should impose their will on others. Any scheme in darkness would probably lead to a fruitless summit.



On the second morning of his stay inCopenhagen, hours before the final summit segment of the U.N. climate change conference, Wen met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who had just arrived.

Both of the leaders held that no matter what happened, the two countries should keep in close touch and firmly defend the interests of developing countries.

At 9:45 a.m., Premier Wen arrived at the main venue of the conference, 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled opening.

However, neither the host Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen nor the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was present even at10 a.m..

People were guessing what was the matter, but no one came to explain the reason for the delay.

Premier Wen made a prompt decision to propose a meeting of the BASIC countries. The leaders just sat around a tea table in the hall and began exchanging views.

It was until 11:30 that Rasmussen announced the opening of the summit.

Premier Wen was the first to deliver a speech, titled "Build Consensus and Strengthen Cooperation to Advance the Historical Process of Combating Climate Change."

In the speech with 2,000-odd Chinese characters, Wen made it clear that whatChina thought, did and would do to cope with climate change.

At the end of his speech, Wen made a serious promise.

"It is with a sense of responsibility to the Chinese people and the whole mankind that the Chinese government has set the target for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. This is a voluntary actionChina has taken in the light of its national circumstances. We have not attached any condition to the target, nor have we linked it to the target of any other country," Wen said.

"We will honor our word with real action. Whatever outcome this conference may produce, we will be fully committed to achieving and even exceeding the target."

Premier Wen's speech won long-time applause at the conference venue. Some foreign leaders congratulated Wen on his speech with handshaking.



After U.S. President Barack Obama's speech, Premier Wen held talks with him in a meeting room just behind the summit venue.

The two leaders agreed that the participating countries of the conference should achieve a political resolution as soon as possible and continue cooperation on climate change.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama inCopenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 18, 2009. (Xinhua/Liu Jiansheng)


As soon as the talks ended, Wen asked members of the Chinese delegation to inform the Group of 77 and other BASIC countries of the Sino-American talks, aiming to speed up negotiations between developing and developed countries.

Developing and developed countries discussed the final document, but failed to make any progress as a result of divergence of views, even when theCopenhagen climate change conference was scheduled to conclude hours earlier.

Some countries were drafting announcement of the conference's possible failure, and certain foreign leaders even made irresponsible criticism againstChina.

At theBella Center, the venue of the conference, journalists started to pack luggage. People around the world were wondering how and when the Danish government would declare failure of the largest and highest level climate change conference ever in human history.

It was Premier Wen who played a key role in the last-minute attempt to exchange ideas and reach consensus.

Wen believed that it was impossible to reach a legally binding agreement at that time, while no country was willing to be responsible for the failure if the conference yielded no result in the end.

"As long as there is hope of one percent, we should not give up and must instead make 100 percent of effort," he told the Chinese delegation.

Wen decided to meet other leaders of the BASIC countries again and make a final attempt.

At the same time, President Obama said he wanted to have a second meeting with Premier Wen. Wen agreed to meet him after the BASIC meeting ended.

The BASIC countries leaders agreed that theCopenhagen conference might fail and all-out efforts should be made to help achieve some results.

They agreed to reach consensus on key issues first and then negotiate with theUnited States and European countries on the basis of safeguarding interests for the developing countries and with the highest degree of flexibility.

Wen urged to keep contact and enhance cooperation with African countries, the Group of 77 and small island states.

At 6:50 p.m., when the BASIC leaders were reviewing their final common position, President Obama showed up, which was a bit of surprise for those in the room although the scheduled time for the Sino-American meeting was over.

Obama stopped with one foot outside the gate and asked Premier Wen with smiles if he should wait outside or join the discussion.

Premier Wen stood up and politely invited Obama to join them. Obama accepted and walked around the room to shake hands with all the people present, before taking a seat to the left of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and opposite to Wen.

The BASIC leaders knew very well theU.S. stance since they all met respectively before.

Premier Wen said efforts should be made to adopt a resolution in order to affirm the achievements of the meeting and build consensus. He then made clear the position of BASIC countries on several key issues.

Obama briefed the leaders of BASIC countries about the latest U.S. stance, saying both sides were very close on the wording of these issues, before the leaders of the five nations started the negotiations.

While the leaders were discussing, journalists were anxiously waiting outside. Some of them even took photos through the window.

Applause were heard before long as the BASIC countries finally reached agreement with theUnited States on the wording of some key issues. The United States said it was willing to consult with the European Union.

The BASIC countries discussed with some other countries while the U.S.-Europe talks went on. A few more countries reviewed the draft later.

An hour later, news came that the parties concerned agreed on the draft and were ready to submit it for a voting at the conference. It was already nine hours after the scheduled conclusion of the conference.

The achievement was a result of joint efforts by all the participating countries other than out of the will of one or two countries.

Copenhagen witnessed what a role China played in this complicated and tough process.

There have been different interpretations on the outcome over the past few days, but people have to recognize that international cooperation to cope with climate change has moved a step ahead on the right direction, through the joint efforts of the international community. It delivered hope and confidence to the world.

In this process,China showed the greatest sincerity, tried its best and played a constructive part.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Wen saidChina would like to work with other countries, with the Copenhagen talks as a new beginning, to honor commitments, cooperate more closely and conclude the "Bali Roadmap" negotiations at an early date.

He called for efforts to seek new progress from the international cooperation on climate change and make due contributions to human endeavor to deal with climate change.

Source: Xinhua

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