China wants a “powerful, ambitious and legally binding deal” in Paris

Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 5 minutes
20 November 2015

BEIJING: China’s chief climate negotiator is pushing for a “powerful, ambitious and legally binding deal” at the global COP21 climate talks in Paris starting later this month.

The announcement comes from Xie Zenhua, China’s special representative on climate change, who presented a report yesterday showing how the country is delivering its climate goals.

“China is on the right track to achieve a low carbon future,” comments Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group. “This year, the final year of the 12th Five-Year Plan, China has brought forward ambitious energy and carbon intensity targets, an aggressive development of renewable energy and overachieved its goal of increasing forest stock. Moreover, the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution commits to cap China’s emissions no later than 2030.

“These achievements are a positive sign before the incoming climate talks in Paris, and a testament of how the country is committed to reduce its emissions: such efforts and progress helps lay a solid foundation to transition to spur even more climate ambition.”

But while national commitment is encouraging, there is still no agreement on whether a climate deal hammered out in Paris should be legally binding or not. In a recent interview with the Financial Times, John Kerry, US Secretary of State stressed in Paris there were “not going to be legally binding reduction targets like Kyoto.” The point is particularly felt by the European Union, which in a statement from its climate commissioner remarked how “the Paris agreement must be an international legally binding agreement […] The title of the agreement is yet to be decided but it will not affect its legally binding form.”

Presenting the report, Xie Zenhua underscored that in order to tackle climate change on a global scale, developed countries must honour their commitment to provide technology and financial support for developing countries – a commitment of US$100 billion a year by 2020.

The Green Climate Fund, established in 2010 under the the framework of the UNFCCC, is a financial mechanism that supports green activities in order to provide a long-term financing for clean tech projects. However, so far the fund has attracted just over US$10 billion, with only US$6 delivered.

China’s chief negotiator also reiterated the necessity of applying the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ principle in the talks, which takes into account the different economic developments between states.

Changhua Wu explains: “A cornerstone of the Paris agreement must be the mutual trust built upon transparency, through dedicated mechanisms.” Addressing the concerns about the possible outcomes of the Paris climate talks, she adds: “China is very confident, because it has played a very constructive role ahead of Paris.

“One year ago, at the APEC Summit in Beijing, the bilateral climate talks between Chinese President Xi Jinxing and US President Obama demonstrated to the international community how this joint leadership is committed to tackle global climate change challenges.”

Since then, China and the US have strengthened their links to tackle climate change – as demonstrated by bilateral efforts in September, which was followed by a China and France partnership. China has also made huge efforts to engage India and Brazil, as well as the so-called ‘Group 77’, the coalition of developing countries that will play a central role in the Paris consultations.

“Compared to the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009, the international community that will be part of the Paris process is now much more mature,” says Changhua Wu.

“China has actively engaged other economies to shift toward a low carbon economy, aligning its domestic priority development agenda with the global climate change agenda.”

With just over a week to Paris, national, sub-national and business leaders will convene in the French capital to build up support for a successful outcome from the negotiations. “The clock is ticking,” concludes Changhua Wu. “It is time to talk, and more importantly, it is time to act. Together, we can transform an economy that will be green, low carbon and circular.”

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by Ilario D'Amato

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