At 8:30 a.m. on December 18, before attending the leaders' event, Premier Wen had a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had just flown in.
China and India are neighbors and both are major developing countries. At this important moment, whether the two countries could come together for close cooperation would affect not only the interests of the developing world, but also the progress of the conference.
Premier Wen and Prime Minister Singh are old friends. This was their second meeting in the year. They both knew that only solidarity and cooperation would bring about a true "Asian century" of harmony, development and prosperity. And this would require the vision, courage and resolve of statesmen.
Premier Wen started by giving an overview of the latest developments of the conference. He also shared his views on the situation and sought Prime Minister Singh's opinion. Touched by Premier Wen's sincere words and gesture, the Indian prime minister said he fully echoed Premier Wen's comments. He pointed to the broad consensus and common interests shared by India and China on climate change and expressed satisfaction with bilateral cooperation in advancing the negotiation process in Copenhagen. The two leaders agreed that no matter what might happen, China and India would stay in close touch and coordination to uphold the interests of developing countries.
The Bella Center in the south of Copenhagen is the biggest exhibition center in Scandinavian countries. It was the main venue for the Copenhagen conference.
At 9:45 a.m., Premier Wen arrived at the center for the leaders' event scheduled to begin at 10 o'clock. The event attracted worldwide attention. However, neither the host nor the UN secretary general showed up at 10 and the stage was all empty. People began to speculate what had happened, but no one turned up to give an explanation.
Some leaders came to say hello to Premier Wen who had friendly chat with them. The clock was ticking, wearing down people's enthusiasm and expectations for the leaders' event.
Seeing this, Premier Wen immediately made the decision to call another meeting among BASIC leaders. There was no time to get a meeting room. The four leaders simply sat around a small coffee table in the lounge outside the plenary hall and started their discussion. They were resolved to work for an outcome at this final moment.
Finally, at 11:30 a.m., chair of the conference, Prime Minister Rasmussen, announced the opening of the event and invited Premier Wen to be the first to address the conference. Amid a big round of applause, the premier mounted the rostrum in his typical vigorous steps, looking calm, confident and determined. His speech, entitled "Build Consensus and Strengthen Cooperation to Advance the Historical Process of Combating Climate Change," contained a little more than 2,000 Chinese characters.
"At this very moment, billions of people across the world are following closely what is happening here in Copenhagen. The will that we express and the commitments that we make here should help push forward mankind's historical process of combating climate change. Standing at this podium, I am deeply aware of the heavy responsibility upon us." These opening words spoke the mind of people around the world and demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility of the Chinese Government. Premier Wen went on to talk about China's contribution to the fight against climate change and put forward four principles to promote climate negotiations. Toward the end of the speech, he raised his voice and solemnly pledged, "… it is with a sense of responsibility to the Chinese people and the whole mankind that the Chinese Government has set the target for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. This is a voluntary action China has taken in light of its national circumstances. We have not attached any condition to the target, nor have we linked it to the target of any other country. We will honor our word with real action. Whatever outcome this conference may produce, we will be fully committed to achieving and even exceeding the target."
A prolonged round of applause broke out from the audience. Some foreign leaders went to Premier Wen's place, shaking his hand and congratulating him on the speech.
China is the biggest developing country in the world while the United States is the largest developed country. The meeting between Premier Wen and President Obama naturally became the focus of people's attention.
The meeting was scheduled to take place after President Obama's speech at the plenary session. It was held in a makeshift room of a steel frame covered with drapes.
The two leaders exchanged views in a frank, in-depth and practical manner on the outcome of the conference, the long-term target, the MRV and other focal issues. They stated their respective views and also showed some flexibility. They agreed that the conference should speedily reach a political agreement and that China and the United States should maintain cooperation. They then instructed their chief negotiators to have further consultations and agreed to meet again later that day.
After the meeting, Premier Wen immediately instructed the Chinese negotiating team to brief the BASIC countries and G77 on the China-U.S. meeting and encourage developing and developed countries to work together and expedite the negotiation process.
Developed and developing countries held consultations on the final document of the conference, yet it was still hard to make any progress due to the differences among parties. The scheduled closing time of the conference had long passed.
Some countries started to prepare statements in the event of a breakdown and leaders of a handful of countries even made irresponsible remarks, pointing fingers at China.
At the Bella Center, many leaders were seen making hasty departures with stern looks. Journalists were packing up equipment and deserted used paper was everywhere on the floor. And people were paying more attention to when and how the Danish Government would announce that this largest and highest-level conference in UN history had ended in failure.
At this final moment, Premier Wen once again played a crucial role. He called a meeting of the Chinese delegation and made a clear and realistic analysis of the situation. He said that it was no longer possible to reach a legally binding document now, yet all parties knew full well what a fruitless conference would mean and no one wanted to be held responsible for the failure. Premier Wen said that as long as there was 1 percent hope, we must exert 100 percent efforts and not give up easily. He decided on the spot to meet with President Lula, Prime Minister Singh and President Jacob Zuma again to make a last-ditch effort. At the same time, President Obama also proposed a second meeting with Premier Wen. Premier Wen agreed to meet with him after talking to the BASIC leaders.
After a short while, leaders of the BASIC countries arrived at the meeting room of the Chinese delegation. They shared the view that there was the danger of a failed conference, and agreed that the BASIC countries could first reach consensus on the key issues and then talk to the Europeans and the United States with maximum flexibility on the basis of sticking to principles and upholding the interests of developing countries. They maintained that every effort must be made for some results at the conference. Premier Wen laid particular emphasis on the need to keep in touch and enhance cooperation with the African countries, the G77 and small island states.
At 6:50 p.m., when leaders of the BASIC countries were doing the final review of their common position, they heard a clamor of voices outside. The door was opened and there stood President Obama. Although the scheduled time for the second China-U.S. meeting had passed, Obama's presence at that moment and that place still came as a surprise to the people inside.
President Obama must, too, have felt a bit awkward. With one foot inside the door, he smiled and asked Premier Wen whether he was early and whether he should wait outside or come in and join the discussion. Premier Wen stood up and welcomed him courteously. President Obama was apparently touched. He first walked around the room, shaking hands with everyone inside, and then sat down on President Lula's left and across the table facing Premier Wen.
As all the BASIC countries already had prior bilateral contact with the United States, they were well aware of each other's position. Premier Wen started the discussion by stating that efforts must be made to adopt a decision at the conference to recognize the results and build consensus. He explained to President Obama the position of the BASIC countries on several key issues. President Obama also updated the four countries on the U.S. position. He said that the two sides were already very close on the wording concerning these issues. Leaders of the five countries then continued to have serious consultations.
After consultations, the BASIC countries reached agreement with the United States on the formulations of several key issues in the draft document. The U.S. side offered to consult with the European Union (EU) about what was just agreed upon.
The United States then had consultations with the EU countries, and the BASIC countries also held discussions with other countries. Later, some countries held a small-group consultation on the draft text.
Word came an hour later that the relevant parties had reached consensus on a draft resolution and would soon submit it to the plenary for a vote. It was already nine hours behind the scheduled closing time of the conference.
What followed was some procedural work, and leaders thus started to leave Copenhagen. They had overfulfilled their task in attending the high-level event.
The final outcome of the Copenhagen conference was in no way dictated by one or two countries. Rather, it was the result of the concerted efforts of all countries. Yet, one can see from the tortuous and hard process that China played a vital role.
In a recent interview with Xinhua News Agency, Premier Wen said that, with the Copenhagen conference as a new starting point, China is ready to work with other parties to honor commitments, enhance cooperation, complete the "Bali Roadmap" negotiations at an early date, and strive for continued progress in the international cooperation on climate change, thus making its due contribution to mankind's response to climate change.