Nationalism has no place in climate change

Feature Story - 2009-12-16
Greenpeace China's Yang Ailun is in Copenhagen lobbying delegates at the climate change conference to make a strong and fair deal to stop climate change. This is her take on why loving your country means wanting the best possible climate change deal out of Copenhagen.

Yang Ailun, Greenpeace China Climate and Energy campaign manager

We are now more than half way through the Copenhagen climate change summit, and negotiations have become a battle,with delegates pitted against each other.

The talks, of course, should be concentrating on stopping climate change, but instead they have developed into a sparring match between countries.

Naturally, the developing countries are at a disadvantage compared to the developed world, with the least developed countries in the weakest position.

At its heart, climate change is unfair - those people who are the least responsible, people from the poorest countries, are the ones who will suffer the most from the effects of climate change.

Until now, industrialised countries have failed to meet the challenge of stopping climate change; both in terms of pledges to cut emissions and also in terms of what they are prepared to invest to help the developing world control their emissions and cope with climate change.

If developed countries do not take the lead and cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly and provide sufficient funds and technological support to the developing world, how can Copenhagen arrive at a fair, ambitious and binding agreement?

No wonder a recent online poll in China showed that 73% of respondents do not believe that the Copenhagen summit result in fair deal that will stop climate change.

In fact, if we look more closely at the history of international negotiations, since the Second World War, the US has been the controlling voice behind most international treaties and they have almost always reflected the interests of the industrialised world without considering the needs of the developing world.

But Copenhagen is different.

China's recent rise on the geopolitical stage has meant that Beijing, as a de facto leader of the developing world, can help emerging economies such as India, Brazil and South Africa to have a stronger voice on the world stage.

For the first time, the larger developing countries have the strength to group together and create a louder voice in international negotiations. Furthermore, the US, mired in its own domestic problems, is at a disadvantage.

The look of international talks has changed indeed.

It's no wonder that in the same online poll I mentioned above, 92% of respondents believe that China should not back down under pressure from the developed world.

Many web users left messages saying that China should not be fooled by industrial nations and agree to emissions reductions of its own.

Of course, it's important to fight for a fair deal at these climate talks.

As a developing country with little historical responsibility for climate change, China can not and should not make the same cuts to emissions as the developed world should shoulder.

So far, China's response to climate change has been to promote clean, renewable energy and the development of green technology.

These measures are also helping to ensure China's energy security and reducing environmental pollution.

Every Chinese person will benefit from these steps.

The faster China responds to climate change and the faster it transforms its economy to a low-carbon sustainable economy, the easier it will be for China to rise economically on the global stage.

Because of climate change, we are already living with the reality of having to limit our carbon emissions.

If China achieves a low-carbon economy, it can be a great example for other developing countries to follow.

On the surface, the developed world looks like they have the advantage, but in the long term they are making a big economic mistake.

The best example is the US during George W Bush's term as president.

At that time, the US did not accept that climate change was happening and was man-made, putting the country back at least eight years.

In the areas of renewable energy technology and development, the US has fallen behind.

So it looks very likely that the US long-enjoyed advantages may be about to slide away very fast.

For these negotiations, the developing word has both the moral advantage and the strength of unity to fight for a fair deal at this summit.

For the Chinese, to be a true patriot you need to know clearly what would genuinely benefit China.

We must all support Chinese government policies that supports action on climate change.

Although it's important that there is a level playing field between developed and developing nations at these negotiations it is not the most crucial thing.

The real crux of these negotiations is that they end up in a fair, binding treaty that stops climate change and benefits the whole world.