Wikileaks Reveal Secret Climate Talks

The U.S. and China held secret talks to undermine climate emission agreements.

Secret talks between the U.S. and China prior to the Kyoto Protocol—and the Copenhagen climate talks—ensured that neither nation would commit to reduce emissions.
© Political Economy Research Institute

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks last week confirmed suspicions that the U.S. and Chinese governments held secret talks to undermine worldwide climate emission agreements. According to the cables, in May 2009, Senator John Kerry told the Deputy Prime Minister in Beijiny, Minister Li Kequiang, that they would draw up "a new basis for "major cooperation" between the United States and China on climate change."

The cables happened prior to the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen that same year (COP15), by all accounts considered to be a failure from an environmental standpoint since both the U.S. and China would not commit to enforced emission reduction targets. Secret discussions between the two countries to resist emissions targets began under President George W. Bush, and helped ensure that no lasting impact would be made by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the first attempt to institute worldwide emission reductions, particularly from industrialized nations.

The U.S signed the protocol, but never ratified it; so only European nations are actually bound to make the reductions it outlines. Great hope for a more serious commitment from the U.S. and China—the world's top two polluters—preceded the climate talks in Copenhagen last December. But there, too, private talks undermined any real progress. As an article in the German publication Der Speigel explains: "…at the decisive moment Europe's politicians were forced to stand by helplessly while China, India, South Africa and Brazil met in a hotel room and took matters into their own hands. They took the draft Copenhagen agreement and struck off all binding obligations. Later on the plotters were joined by Barack Obama. The outcome of this paring-down is now known as the "Copenhagen Accord." In international negotiations, this vague draft resolution now stands alongside the specific plan demanded by the Europeans."

What's more, the leaked cables reveal, the U.S. offered poor nations such as the Maldives financial aid in exchange for their cooperation with the watered-down Copenhagen Accord.

SOURCES: Kyoto Protocol; LiveScience; Spiegel Online.