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Wen off to Copenhagen as Summit Heats up

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Premier Wen Jiabao will leave for Copenhagen this afternoon, hoping to help seal a fair and effective climate change deal for the planet and secure China's emission rights.

Wen will join world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen for its crucial last two days.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu yesterday said he is likely to meet state leaders from India, Brazil and South Africa, among others.

"China, as a developing country, will make its due contribution to the UN conference," said Jiang.

It is not yet known whether Wen and Obama will meet on the fringes of the conference but he has worked the phones relentlessly in the past 10 days, calling as many as 10 world leaders and UN chief Ban Ki-moon in an attempt to secure a workable agreement.

Chinese officials have also had important meetings in recent days with negotiators from many countries, including representatives from the United Kingdom and Germany.

But during the past 10 days, China and the US have not held any official meetings at any level in respect to climate change.

If Wen and Obama do get the chance to meet, they will likely have lots to talk about - the US recently urged China to accept a binding carbon reduction target and said it will not provide financial support to Beijing for climate initiatives.

China, meanwhile, called on the US to set a more ambitious target for emissions reduction after Washington promised to cut them by around 4 percent by 2020 from the 1990 base. Developing countries had urged the US and wealthy countries to slash emissions by 40 percent.

Experts have called on the US and China to narrow their differences in a bid to ensure the conference is a success.

Experts played down the likelihood of the world achieving an ambitious global treaty in Copenhagen but said Wen will defend China's status as a developing country and protect its right to economic expansion in the future.

Jiang said the summit has seen both conflicts and achievements.

She said the main stumbling block to real progress has been the reluctance of developed nations to hand over funding and technical support to developing nations that they promised in earlier agreements.

"If they abandon the principles of the Bali Road Map and the Kyoto Protocol, it will have a negative impact and hamper the conference," Jiang said.

She added that China supports the contention that some smaller developing island countries and African countries are in the most urgent need of funding support and should get help first.

But the spokesperson stressed that developed countries have a legal obligation to help all developing countries.

Huang Shengchu, president of the China Coal Information Institute, said the fact that Wen will be in Copenhagen shows the determination of the Chinese government to secure a good deal.

Zhang Haibin, an environmental politics professor at Peking University, said the presence of leaders such as Wen will inject hope that a deal can be found.

"It demonstrates the leaders' will to take up the responsibility to rescue the whole of human kind," said Zhang. "However, because of the nature of world politics, the chances of reaching an effective and ambitious agreement, in the end, are slim."

John Sayer, director of Oxfam Hong Kong, said many developing countries, including China, India, Brazil and South Africa, have voluntarily offered to cut emissions. China recently said it will reduce its carbon intensity by between 40 and 45 percent by 2020 from the 2005 base level.

However, as Zhang pointed out, some US experts, instead of welcoming such offers, have called on China to let international organizations verify that emissions are indeed falling.

Daniel Dudek, chief economist with the US Environmental Defense Fund, said the world seems to be unsure about whether China is serious about cutting emissions and achieving a good post-Kyoto deal.

"I think that people want to be reassured that China wants to achieve an agreement at Copenhagen and that China values moving forward on climate change more than winning its negotiating positions," he said.

(China Daily December 16, 2009)