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16th Feb 2019

Hollande secures climate pact in China

  • Xi and Hollande announced they would aim for an 'ambitious and legally binding' climate deal in Paris (Photo: Meg Chang)

French president Francois Hollande scored some points with environmentalists on behalf of Europe on Monday (2 November), as he and Chinese president Xi Jinping came out with a declaration on climate change that sees China moving somewhat in Europe's direction.

China agreed that a global climate deal, which countries will seek to clinch at a conference in Paris later this year, should include a review mechanism.

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China and France "are in favour of a comprehensive review to take place every five years to assess the progress made towards the agreed long-term objectives", a statement released by the Elysee said.

While the declaration did not specifically say so, according to Hollande the review would provide "the necessary upward revision of the national pledges every five years".

The declaration called for 'Paris' to yield an "ambitious and legally binding" deal, which keeps the earth's temperature rise limited to no more than two degrees Celsius. It also noted that both countries see the importance of supporting developing countries financially in sustainable development and climate resilience.

"What we have just established here in this declaration is a likelihood that the Paris conference will succeed", Hollande said according to international media.

"That doesn't mean that the Paris conference is definitely going to be a success, but the conditions for success have been laid down in Beijing today", he added.

The French leader said his visit to China was "historic, and I weigh my words".

The Paris climate change conference will commence in four weeks, on Monday 30 November, with a mini-summit of world leaders including Xi. A deal is hoped to have been achieved by the end of the two weeks of talks.

The Sino-French deal, presented during Hollande's visit to Beijing, brings to mind the US-China agreement announced in the same month last year, which injected some much-needed optimism in the world of climate talks.

China is the world's largest polluter in absolute terms, so any international climate deal will need its cooperation to succeed.

'Encouraging'

The EU's climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, said in a social media message the declaration was a "very important step forward on the way to an ambitious deal in Paris".

According to NGO Climate Action Network Europe (CAN), the news from Beijing shows China "no longer hides behind its developing country status".

"It is encouraging to see that China is willing to take on commitments to reduce its emissions and financially support poor countries in their efforts to tackle climate change", the NGO told this website in an e-mailed comment.

Greenpeace too was cautiously optimistic.

Its China climate campaigner Li Shuo, called it "encouraging to see the ball rolling and diplomacy nudging us a small step forward".

"Moreover, with the recent decline in coal consumption and robust renewable energy development, China is positioning itself at the front of climate leadership. This is drastically different from six years ago in Copenhagen", said Li in a press release.

The idea behind including a review mechanism is that the Paris deal will not be the fix-all of the entire climate issue, but rather a starting point. That would avoid locking countries into an emissions reduction path that cannot be accelerated if necessary.

"I have no doubt there will be an agreement in Paris. The question is: how often will it be reviewed", an industry source who has followed climate talks for two decades said recently.

"If we don't have a review, we won't increase ambition", he added.

Last Friday, UN climate chief Christina Figueres said that the current nationally decided pledges are not enough to stay under the threshold of two degrees Celsius, but added that she was optimistic of the state of climate talks compared to before the bottom-up approach was adopted.

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