By Marlowe Hood (AFP) – Dec 10, 2009
COPENHAGEN — The United States and China were at odds Thursday at the UN climate conference over who to blame and who should pay for global warming with Washington saying Beijing was a low priority for compensation.
Earlier China's top delegate in Copenhagen blamed rich countries like the United States for global warming and said they had a duty to pay out billions of dollars in compensation to poorer, developing countries.
However, China would not be the top of any US list of countries receiving compensation for the effects of global warming.
"The Chinese have enormous capacity," US negotiator Jonathan Pershing told AFP.
"If you think about what will be prioritised in terms of the needs of the community for most of the countries, the poorest countries, the countries that are hardest hit -- I wouldn't start with China," he said.
China and the United States are the world's two largest carbon polluters and it is widely agreed that no climate deal at the crunch summit will be possible unless the two superpowers find common ground.
On Wednesday, China's climate ambassador Yu Qingtai reacted strongly to a similar suggestion by top US negotiator Todd Stern, saying rich countries had caused the problem of global warming.
They therefore had to pay to help poor countries switch to low-carbon technology and shore up their defences against climate change, Yu said.
"Provision of financial support to developing countries by developed countries is not an act of charity or philanthropy of rich people," Yu told a press conference.
"It is the legal and historical responsibility of the developed countries."
Stern had earlier rejected the notion that the US or other developed countries owed "reparations".
"We absolutely recognize our historic role in putting emissions in the atmosphere, up there, but the sense of guilt or culpability or reparations, I just categorically reject that," Stern said.
Developing nations "can't get a pass" from calls to burn less fossil fuels that cause climate change, he said.
Stern added: "I don't envision public funds, certainly not from the US, going to China."
"China -- to its great credit -- has a dynamic economy, and sits on some two trillion dollars in reserves. So we don?t think China would be the first candidate for public funding."
Asked about these remarks, Yu said abruptly: "Such a question does not exist. China has never sought to become the first candidate of financial support."
Emissions curbs and funding issues are at the heart of the December 7-18 marathon talks under the UN flag for tackling global warming after 2012.
China is world's No. 1 carbon polluter, its emissions overtaking those of the United States in 2005 or 2006, as expressed in volume terms, according to various analyses.
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