China ended up as a useful scapegoat

Feature Story - 2009-12-21
The developed world has conveniently branded China the scapegoat for the failure of the Copenhagen summit to deliver a deal to stop climate change. While this spin is deplorable, China only deserves so much sympathy, muses Greenpeace China's Ailun Yang.

Climate and energy campaign manager Yang Ailun.

This was not the result China wanted.

China's intention was to be seen as a good guy in this historical climate conference. That is, a good guy, but not yet the leader.

The foundations had all been there - the domestic revolution in clean energy; intensive negotiations with all the major players, especially the US, over the past year; the big announcement of its targets on emission growth 10 days ahead of Copenhagen; the setting-up of the first-ever China Communication and News Centre.

However, two things caught China by surprise.

First was the cry of the most vulnerable developing countries for China to take more responsibility.

All of a sudden, the hat of "developing country" was no longer such a convenient fit. Second, China was beaten by the US negotiation strategy.

Although, for the first time in history, China was sitting at the negotiation table with the US as an equal player, there was still a long way for China to go to master the international diplomacy skills.

The fact that the US could spin the issue of China's data transparency as the "deal-breaker" for the whole Copenhagen meeting was the saddest thing in the past two weeks.

There can be no such thing as being the good guy when you're the world's biggest CO² emitter.

Long before the real ending, the game became blaming China.

Desperate world leaders need to provide an explanation to their people why Copenhagen would end in such a mess. Well, who more convenient to blame than China?

But China only deserves so much sympathy.

It was merely acting in its own interests, while Copenhagen was supposed to be the place to secure a global climate rescue plan.

China failed to recognise and embrace the international role it ought to play in this global fight against the biggest threat of our humanity.

From Copenhagen, China had to learn an important lesson - she could decide to be a leader or the bad guy.

For there can be no such thing as being the good guy when you're the world's biggest CO² emitter.