Der Spiegel’s Eurocentric Green China-Bashing

May 5, 2010 | Michael Shellenberger,

By Michael Shellenberger

German media giant Der Spiegel is engaging in some of the worst green China-bashing to date. Having gained access to secret recordings of a private meeting between world leaders in Copenhagen, Der Spiegel has run a three-part series (translated into English) and created a video special which depicts German P.M. Angela Merkel, British P.M. Gordon Brown, and French P.M. Nicholas Sarkozy as noble green warriors, the Chinese government as ecologically irresponsible, and American President Obama as Judas for trying to broker an agreement.

The article is titled, "How China and India Sabotaged the UN Climate Summit," and was written by three investigative reporters, Tobias Rapp, Christian Schwügerl, and Gerald Traufetter. Here's Der Spiegel's set-up:

What really went on at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen? Secret recordings obtained by SPIEGEL reveal how China and India prevented an agreement on tackling climate change at the crucial meeting. The powerless Europeans were forced to look on as the agreement failed.

The article reflects Europe's evident frustration at no longer being in the driver's seat of global governance.

In the negotiating room are the world leaders debating over a climate emissions framework that is incapable of working. It's worse than watching an episode of the "Jersey Shore." Merkel, Sarkozy, and Brown badger the Chinese representative to make the same empty promises they've made (and which they've been unable to keep without buying offsets). The Chinese representative won't go along with the charade. He points out that the West is responsible for 80 percent of the emissions over the last 200 years, a remark that is greeted by radio silence.

Der Spiegel proceeds to accuse Obama of having "stabbed" the Noble Europeans in the back because he met later with the heads of the developing nations (Brazil, India, South Africa) who quite understandably got fed up with being lectured by rich Europeans and decided to meet in their own room. It was there that the final "accord" (read: press release) was written.

The whole thing has the feel of dysfunctional 1968 student politics, with the European leaders acting like the petulant New Left activists, the Chinese as the representative from the office of the university president, and Obama as the mediating student body president (insisting that a press statement, er, emissions reduction treaty, must get negotiated right then and there because he has to return to the U.S. to get back to really important work).

Der Spiegel says the audio recordings were created by accident. But somebody must have leaked them to Der Spiegel. It's hard to see how this kind of Eurocentric coverage, and the leak of the tapes, if it was by one of the European delegations, bodes well for the next climate meeting in Cancun, Mexico.