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The UN climate summit hit major turbulence Monday when developing nations staged a five-hour walkout and China accused the West of trickery, as the specter of failure loomed heavily over Copenhagen.

As campaigners warned negotiators they had five days to avert climate chaos, ministers acknowledged they had to start making giant strides before 120 heads of state arrive for the summit's climax on Friday.

But their hopes were hit when Africa led a boycott by developing nations of working groups, and only returned after securing guarantees that the summit would not sideline talks about the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

That core emissions-curbing treaty ties rich countries that have ratified it to binding emissions curbs, but not developing nations.

But Kyoto does not include the United States, which says the protocol is unfair, as the binding targets do not apply to developing giants that are already huge emitters of greenhouse gases. A first round of pledges under Kyoto expires at the end of 2012, and poorer nations are seeking a seven-year commitment period.

No concessions

On the same day in an interview in Copenhagen with the Financial Times, China's vice foreign minister, He Yafei, said "financial resources for the efforts of developing countries (to combat climate change) are a legal obligation."

"That does not mean China will take a share – probably not. We do not expect money will flow from the US, UK (and others) to China."

The Financial Times sees it as a signal that China "had abandoned its demand for funding from the developed world to combat climate change, the first apparent concession by one of the major players at the Copenhagen climate talks."

There was no official response from the Chinese government on the matter Monday. But an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who asked not to be named, told the Global Times that the British newspaper had misinterpreted He's speech.

Pang Jun, a scholar at the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Renmin University of China, said Beijing had never dropped its demand for funding and related rights.

"What He was implying was China could give up some deserved part of financial resources for countries with pressing demands. The developed counties always dodge the key problem of funding. So they tend to use He's words as an excuse to justify their positions," Pang said.

According to a report on China Central Television Monday, He Yafei said that the key and prerequisite for a successful United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen is that developed countries fulfill their historical responsibilities and make good on pledges on finance and technology transfer to developing countries.

"The main obstacles are now from developed countries, which lack political will and make far fewer pledges than they should," He said.

He Yafei said China would not be the fall guy if there were a fiasco.

"I know people will say if there is no deal that China is to blame. This is a trick played by developed countries. They have to look at their own position and can't use China as an excuse," he told the Financial Times.

Greenpeace China's press officer Wang Xiaojun elaborated that He's words were a clear signal to industrialized nations that the United States and the European Union should no longer blame China while they refuse to honor their own obligations, which is offering appropriate funding to emerging economies.

China has said developed nations should take the lead in committing to emission-reduction targets, and provide financial assistance to emerging economies to help them fight global warming.

Emerging economies such as China say rich nations have a long history of reneging on pledges to aid poor countries. The US and many industrialized nations say it's critical that China and developing countries agree to a treaty that includes a way to measure, report and verify promised cuts in gases.

The European Union has so far pledged 7.2 billion euros (US$10.6 billion) in aid, which emerging nations have slammed as "insignificant."

Wang Yizhou, a professor of international relations at Peking University, told the Global Times that China had never raised any specific demand for funds for itself, only called for technology transfer on reasonable terms.

"What China expects from the summit is the establishment of funding and a technology transfer mechanism and more emissions-cuts efforts from developed countries. The demand is raised on behalf of all developing countries." Wang said.

"However, China will still try its best to cut emissions," he said. "But the point is China can only push it forward according to its own agenda and the demand for environmental protection by the Chinese society."

China has vowed to reduce carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, but experts say given economic growth projections, its emissions could still double.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is expected in Copenhagen Wednesday to join other leaders, including US President Barack Obama, in crunch talks the next day.

(Global Times December 15, 2009)