Wednesday

24th Aug 2016

China tells EU: 'Put pressure on US over climate, not developing countries'

  • China and the EU held "a very candid" exchange of views on climate (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

China's chief diplomat on climate action, Su Wei, has said that the European Union must "seize the time" and increase its climate ambition to a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

"The EU should raise its target to 30 percent. It's achievable," Mr Su told reporters in Brussels on Monday (22 March) after he and a delegation of Chinese climate officials led by Xie Zhenhua, the vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, met with EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

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"This will prompt the US to raise its target. We understand that there are different views among the EU member states, but if the EU wants to continue its clear leadership, it must seize the time."

Mr Su said that the two sides had engaged in "a very candid exchange of views."

The Chinese diplomat also said that the bloc must put pressure on the US to embrace the Kyoto Protocol instead of on developing countries to abandon it:

"The EU can play an important role in pushing the US in the right direction. The EU should not decide to backtrack simply because the US is trying to. The EU must insist on on the US sticking to its obligations and then the US will be under pressure to step up its commitments."

He added that China "closely follows" European developments and is aware that there were different views among members states on moving up to a 30 percent reduction target, but that Beijing does not "want to see that because of economic considerations, the EU slows down its commitment."

He said that his government took note of the communication the bloc issued earlier this month: "Overall, we take a very welcoming attitude to the communication."

"The communication re-affirmed the principles of the Copenhagen Accord [the document produced during the UN climate summit in December] that developed countries take the lead in substantial reductions and adhering to their technical obligations."

But he insisted that the EU pass through the door first: "So long as these countries do so, we will be able to take positive steps in mitigation."

Nevertheless, taking care to praise as much as to damn, Mr Su said: "The EU's role in tackling climate change was widely recognised in the world before Copenhagen.

"China and the EU have many converging positions, interests."

Pessimism

In recent weeks, the EU has become increasingly pessimistic that an international agreement will be reached at the next UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of the year. Ms Hedegaard has said that such a deal is unlikely before the end of 2011, when the UN roadshow finally arrives in a so-called Basic country [the developing countries with the largest economies: Brazil, South Africa, India and China], at the climate summit in South Africa.

Mr Su also thought a deal in Cancun would be difficult, but that the obstacle was Washington, not poor countries: "The most crucial factor is the US. If at the time of the conference, it is obvious that they will not produce any legally binding reduction targets, then it is very difficult to preview that Cancun will achieve a comprehensive result."

"But I am not that pessimistic. We have just learnt that Congress passed the healthcare bill. Now there is time to focus on climate change."

He added that the EU's intense diplomatic outreach to bring together a 'coalition of the willing' to isolate its opponents in the UN is "the wrong strategy." Instead, the "EU can unite with all of the developing countries to tackle climate change and this will put pressure on the US."

Referring to a walk-out of UN talks by the African Union at a meeting last September in Bangkok and a second walk-out in Copenhagen, he said: "It seems that as regards the reality of the second phase [of the Kyoto Protocol], developed countries and the EU seem to be backpeddling, which gives rise to these problems."

"This is not a good strategy. Developing countries and the EU have a lot of goals in common."

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