Amid Finger Pointing, Tianjin Climate Meeting Makes Scant Progress

The climate talks in Tianjin have ended. They have done little to smooth the path to the Cancun session of the U.N.Framework Convention on Climate Change that opens at the end of next month save on the creation of the $100 billion fund rich countries agreed at the Copenhagen round of talks to provide poor countries to help deal with the impact of climate change.

The ambition of the Tianjin meeting was always limited: to create a checklist of not what would be done at Cancun, but what might be done. Even that was barely achieved. “This week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancun. Governments addressed what is doable in Cancun, and what may have to be left to later,” the U.N.’s Christiana Figueres (right, pictured at the meeting’s opening) said in her end-of-meeting statement (video, speaking notes), a less-than-ringing endorsement of success. The European Commission’s Jurgen Lefevere was closer to the mark when he called the outcome “very patchy”.

The biggest of the leave-to-latter issues is the deadlock between the world’s two biggest energy consumers and polluters, China and the U.S. with the U.S. saying that China won’t agree to global binding, verifiable emissions curbs and China saying the U.S. and developed economies have to commit first to doing much more than the developing nations as they polluted first. Both Beijing and Washington accuse the other of trying to subvert the U.N. process in their separate ways.

There was some tetchiness between the two countries’ officials throughout the Tianjin meeting, as noted in Xinhua’s report. Having been blamed for the failure the Copenhagen meeting, Beijing is getting its share of finger-pointing in this time. The risk for a binding global treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012 is that climate change becomes another bickering bilateral dispute between Washington and Beijing.

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