President Obama's top climate change negotiator arrived in Copenhagen Wednesday swinging back at Chinese demands for the United States to increase its emission reduction goals.
"With respect to our emissions, it's true our emissions have gone up since 1990," Todd Stern acknowledged. But he added, "the country whose emissions are going up, dramatically, really dramatically is China."
China is the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, overtaking the United States in recent years.
Stern said no agreement will result from the Copenhagen conference without "real" commitment from China.
"China has an extraordinarily successful economy and its in a different stage of development than we are. But emissions are emissions. You just have to do the math," Stern said.
"You cannot get to the reductions we need globally if China is not a major player. It's just the reality," he added.
The Chinese have been critical of the U.S. proposal to bring greenhouse gas emissions down 17 percent by 2020. At the same time, the U.S. argues advanced developing nations like China need to do their part.
Chinese officials have said they will spring to action if the United States contributes significantly to a proposed $10 billion a year fund to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change policies. China -- despite its growing economy -- is technically considered a developing nation.
Stern dismissed the idea that U.S. taxpayer money would eventually end up in China, which currently holds nearly $800 billion in U.S. debt.
"We would intend to direct our public dollars to the neediest countries, and China to its great credit, has dynamic economy that has led it to sit on trillions of dollars in reserves," he said. "So we don't think China would be the first candidate for public funding."
Meantime, a representative for the group of developing nations expressed disappointment at the direction the negotiations are headed.
Referring to a draft text of an agreement, Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the group of 132 developing countries known as G77 plus China, told reporters the document's "overreaching goal is to destroy the balance of obligation between developing and developed, industrialized, western countries. "
He also expressed disdain at another proposal by the developed countries which would seek to avoid more than a 2-degree global temperature rise. "There's no scientific base for the two degree basis," Lumumba said. "Two degrees is a certain death for Africa."
European Union officials refuted that claim.
"There is unequivocal support for Africa," said Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Commission negotiator. "Of course, Ambassador Lumumba is not part of that because he lives in New York, but those people that live in Africa know the intention of the EU."
Climate change negotiators have eight days to work out their differences and diffuse tensions before world leaders from 110 nations arrive in Copenhagen next week.