A year ago, gaggles of climate negotiators at least could enjoy the weather in Bali. This December, the same crowd is huddled in the Polish winter as international climate negotiations come to Poznan, Poland. Much like Bali, though, Poznan resembles a Mexican standoff more than anything else.

Rich countries aren’t ready to commit to specific targets for greenhouse-gas reductions by 2020. The U.S. is in limbo, caught between an outgoing administration lukewarm about tackling climate change and a gung-ho incoming administration that can’t do anything about it until next year at the earliest.

Developing countries are sticking to their guns and demanding richer countries take the earliest and biggest steps to curb emissions. Analysts are scrambling to dampen already low expectations, warning that the two-week long Polish summit won’t likely resolve any of the thorny issues standing in the way of drafting a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

That could explain why China’s apparent willingness to take climate change seriously is generating so much buzz, such as AP’s report today: “Once global warming’s bad boy, China is now winning praise for its upbeat role in climate talks.” Reuters says that China’s foreign minister was “unusually upbeat” on climate talks at a speech in Hong Kong. Just what does China’s “upbeat” approach amount to? Don’t get too excited—it’s not ready to accept binding limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, or sign up for equal treatment with industrialized countries. Maintaining economic growth—albeit by using enery more smartly—is still at the top of China’s agenda, the foreign minister insisted.


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