German environment minister blames China, US for climate stalemate | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 26.12.2009
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German environment minister blames China, US for climate stalemate

German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen has lashed out at the US and China, accusing them of thwarting a binding climate agreement at the recently concluded UN summit in Copenhagen.

The chimney stack belches smoke into the air from a coal fired power station

Roettgen says China doesn't want to lead on climate issues while the US cannot

German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen told the news magazine Der Spiegel that the Chinese were not concerned about climate protection but instead about hindering the process.

He also said that in the United States, the political elite had not succeeded in winning support for climate protection.

The comments come amid the backdrop of criticism levelled by the German government over the attitude of countries like the US and China following the disappointing outcome at the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen earlier this month.

The climate conference of 193 countries agreed merely to "take note" of a new Copenhagen Accord to fight global climate change, after two weeks of talks in the Danish capital. The accord is not legally binding, and does not commit countries to agree a binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

Referring to US President Barack Obama and the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in particular, the German minister said they had settled for the lowest common denominator.

"China does not want to lead and the United States cannot lead,” Roettgen, who belongs to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party, said.

He said the "low point" of the climate talks came when China failed to accept a unilateral offer by industrialized countries to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050.

Lashing out at the US, Roettgen told the magazine "they only want cheap money for consumption, and do not want to limit their CO2 emissions."

Niebel's appeal to developing nations

Meanwhile, German Development Minister Dirk Niebel called on China and other emerging countries to endorse a binding climate agreement.

Protestors carry stop watch symbols at a rally in Copenhagen on Dec. 13, 2009

Climate activists had urged for a strong and binding climate treaty in Copenhagen

In an interview to be published in the Monday edition of the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper, the minister, who's from the Free Democratic Party – junior partners to Merkel's conservative bloc – said these countries should realize that Germany would not settle for a mere continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to run out in 2012.

Kyoto limits the emissions of nearly 40 developed countries from 2008-2012, but the United States never ratified the Protocol and it does not bind the emissions of developing nations.

Niebel said China had acted in Copenhagen as if they were like other developing countries, while they were in fact among the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

Niebel called for emissions trading at the global level. "Global warming can best be limited by the instruments of the market economy," he said. That way, each country gets a certain amount of carbon credits, Niebel pointed out, adding that those who want to emit more, will have to purchase emission rights from other countries.

German government blamed

The leader of the Green party, Juergen Trittin, accused environment minister Roettgen and Chancellor Merkel of doing too little to ensure success at the Copenhagen summit.

"The federal government has failed," Trittin told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Two more rounds of climate talks are scheduled to be held in Bonn and Mexico next year, where negotiators hope to nail down what they failed to achieve in Copenhagen.

The goal is to complete a signable treaty in Mexico City in December 2010 and have it take effect from 2013, after the current roster of pledges under the Kyoto Protocol expires.

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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