Copenhagen climate summit

China holds the world to ransom

Beijing accused of standing in the way of climate change treaty at Copenhagen as US throws down the gauntlet by backing $100bn fund to help poorest countries

A A A

China was under intense diplomatic pressure last night to abandon key demands which risk scuppering an international treaty on climate change in Copenhagen.

Today President Barack Obama is due to arrive in the Danish capital after Hillary Clinton electrified the faltering conference by announcing that America would back the setting-up of a climate fund for poor countries which would have $100bn to give away annually by 2020.

But at the same time she issued a blunt challenge to China, which has now overtaken the US as the world's biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, to allow its promised emissions cuts to be internationally verified – something the Chinese have been stubbornly resisting.

For the Chinese not to accept "transparency" – independent verification – was a "deal breaker" for the US, Mrs Clinton openly said, which would see the $100bn offer disappear.

All eyes are now on China to see if it will allow itself to be cast in the role of the villain who prevented a new international climate deal and deprived the world's poorest people of the chance to get substantial new aid to tackle the effects of global warming which are now inevitable.

The initial reaction of the Chinese at Copenhagen last night was defensive and appeared to show no real movement. He Yafei, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that his country would increase reporting on emissions under domestic law, but would not accept verification that was "intrusive" or infringed on Chinese sovereignty.

However, that may change today when the US President, Barack Obama, arrives – on a remarkable day trip to Copenhagen – to complete the unique assembly of nearly 120 world leaders who have travelled to the Danish capital to try to "seal the deal" of a new climate agreement.

With Gordon Brown prominent among them, the heads of state and government from around the globe spent yesterday in an intense round of one-to-one meetings – among many others, Mr Brown saw the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao – and last night they came together for the biggest VIP dinner in history, hosted by Denmark's Queen Magarethe in Copenhagen's Christiansborg Palace.

Before the dinner, an upbeat Mr Brown said he thought conditions for a global climate deal were now in place, and that the US offer went more than halfway to securing agreement – although talks were expected to continue through the night and well into today, when President Obama jets in at 8am, before jetting out again at 4pm.

But although the President's appearance may be what finally secures a deal, there is no doubt that it was the intervention of his Secretary of State that loosened what seemed to be a hopeless logjam in the talks.

It was unforgettable political theatre. Like a poker player with a sudden new bet, the power-dressed Mrs Clinton changed the game instantly as she pulled her gigantic sum out of the US back pocket and slammed it down on the negotiating table.

She was not saying that America would provide $100bn on its own account. She was not even saying how the money would be raised.

But in giving open and unambiguous US backing to the figure, which was first suggested by Gordon Brown last June, she turned the idea of a colossal new Climate Fund into reality – something which will have an enormous attraction to many of the poorer African countries, whose distrust of the rich nations has been one of the factors which has bedevilled negotiations over the past fortnight.

Mrs Clinton said: "In the context of a strong accord, in which all major economies stand behind meaningful [emission cuts] and provide full transparency as to their implementation, the United States is prepared to work with other countries towards a goal of jointly mobilising $100bn a year by 2020, to address the climate change needs of developing countries."

The time was at hand, she said, "for all countries to reach for common ground and take a historic step which we can all be proud of."

In words which could not show a greater contrast with the attitude of the previous administration, she went on: "I am deeply concerned about the consequences [of global warming] for developing countries, from Bangladesh to the Maldives, from the Caribbean to West Africa, and the Pacific Islands. If we cannot secure the kind of strong accord I have described today, we know what the consequences will be. We must try to overcome the obstacles that remain. We must now seize this moment to raise our oars and row in the same direction towards our common destination and destiny."

But despite the optimism engendered by her démarche, Britain's lead negotiator, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, warned that the talks may still founder: "It's a race against the clock," he said.

The state of play: Where the US stands

What the United States is giving:

* Emissions The US promised to cut 2005 emissions by 17 per cent by 2020. This amounts to about 3 per cent below 1990 levels, the benchmark used in the Kyoto Protocol. The US also said it would extend cuts to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025, and 83 per cent by 2050.

* Finance Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US will work with other countries towards a goal of jointly mobilising $100bn a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries.

* The US pledged $1bn as part of a $3.5bn scheme as initial financing towards slowing deforestation.

What the United States wants:

* Mrs Clinton made clear China must be transparent over CO2 emissions.

* President Obama wants an accord in Copenhagen that covers all issues with "immediate operational effect".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power