COPENHAGEN: It was a closed-door meeting Tuesday afternoon in the Berthal Thorvaldsen room in the Bella Center, Copenhagen, where the two-week United Nations conference on how to supplant the Kyoto Protocol is underway.
Sitting at the negotiation table were Lu Xuedu and Li Yu'e. Lu, deputy director of the National Climate Center, and Li, from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, have been colleagues for years. Few, however, would know that they are also partners for life, husband and wife.
Both are deeply engaged in the climate change negotiations this year as part of the Chinese delegation.
Lu has been tasked with negotiating over clean-energy development since 1996, while his wife is China's climate change expert on land use and agriculture who became an official delegate in 2000.
"We really match each other during negotiations," said Lu. "I advise her with negotiating skills because I have more experiences in that area. She, on the other hand, gives me technical references since she has more field experience."
Gao Feng, director of Legal Affairs with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, had only one word to describe the couple's work ethic.
"If I had one word to describe them, it would be workaholic," Gao said.
The legal affairs director has been China's chief negotiator from 2000 to 2005. In 2000, he recruited Li into the delegation because of her expertise in land use and agriculture.
"We have to be workaholics," Lu said. "The negotiation schedule is so tight that we only have time for breakfast together every day in Copenhagen. If we're not in the same session, we seldom meet."
The couple spends about three months a year apart from each other to sit in on climate-related negotiations abroad. Lu said they both feel they must make amends to their 17-year-old daughter for being on the road so much.
"When we are not at home, she has to cared for by her grandparents, our relatives or my colleagues," he said.
Lu has never been absent for any climate change negotiations on China's behalf in the past decade. He said he's taken a family vacation only once during her daughter's schooling and it lasted all of one day.
He said he's reassured that his daughter is still young and that she's shown a strong interest in climate change, often putting forward questions about the issues to the top experts at home.
Perhaps in the next few years, the Chinese delegation will add another family member to the team.