Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful “deal” so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.
China’s strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world’s poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait…
…. Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday’s Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying “no”, over and over again. Monbiot even approvingly quoted the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who denounced the Copenhagen accord as “a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries”.
Sudan behaves at the talks as a puppet of China; one of a number of countries that relieves the Chinese delegation of having to fight its battles in open sessions. It was a perfect stitch-up. China gutted the deal behind the scenes, and then left its proxies to savage it in public.
And they did it pretty much because they could — and because even with their glaciers melting, the glaciers that supply their rivers, scoring points off the US is far, far more important than making sure the world as a whole survives.
The one thing, besides Lynas’ presence, that kept the Chinese from getting clean away with it: Obama’s breaking into one of the secret meetings the Chinese were holding; the cat started to get out of the bag at that point.
(Crossposted at Mercury Rising.)
UPDATE: I for one should have known something was up when a bunch of nations that turned out to be China’s proxies started hollering over draft documents that were months old and no longer part of the discussion.