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Climate Cooperation Growing Between EU and China

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Aug 4, 2016

The European Union (EU) and China are enhancing cooperation on climate policy and low carbon actions.

The cooperative dynamics between the EU and China started well before the COP21 talks in Paris but gained a new impetus with the signature of The Paris Agreement.

As mentioned in a recent factsheet made available at the 12–13 July 2016 EU-China Summit that took place in Beijing, there is much to be gained from developing cooperation on issues of global concern, in particular climate change, energy, and resource efficiency, in which both sides have significant stakes’. In his opening remarks, EU President Donald Tusk took the opportunity to underline the importance of collaboration in tackling global issues—such as the environment—and the fight against climate change. Among the main highlights, the Summit provided political guidance for the completion of the comprehensive agreement on investment, and an energy roadmap was signed.

There is a strong possibility that the Paris Agreement can still enter into force towards the end of 2016 or ‘on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with the Depositary’. You can follow the tracker here. Next G20 gathering that will take place in Hangzhou, China might help to accelerate it. Both China and the EU have included cities in their respective intended nationally determined contributions—submitted ahead of the Paris talks—in recognition of the essential role of cities in the fight against climate change.

With the signature of ‘EU-China joint statement on climate changeback in 2015, both sides laid down the foundations and the level of ambition for a long-lasting and visionary cooperation.

Additionally, according to a recent announcement made by Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete, the ongoing cooperation on emissions trading that is implemented under the project led by ICF will be expanded in view of the planned nationwide Emissions Trading System (ETS) to be rolled out in China in 2017.

Around the same day of this announcement, the EU-China Low Carbon Cities Conference was launched in Wuhan City, where I had the opportunity to speak and present on the EU-China ETS project that I am leading. I highlighted some of the possible synergies and co-benefits of articulating a well-designed and fully functional ETS with other low carbon policies at the urban level. Wuhan City is actually a great example of how the existing ETS pilot that covers all Hubei Province can co-exist with other sets of low carbon policies and measures at the city level.

This commitment to continue the cooperation on ETS helps to materialise the political commitments made in the joint statement. The Conference was also part of the implementation of the EU-China Low Carbon Cities Partnership and effectively contributed to what was agreed to under the Joint Statement on Climate Change. Both examples are positive signals that we are moving from words to actions.

Moreover, on 22 June 2016, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission adopted a joint communication, titled ‘Elements for a new EU strategy on China’, which maps out the EU’s relationship with China for the next five years. The  document welcomes the leading role played by China—which accounts for about a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions—in the negotiation and early ratification of the Paris Agreement and emphasises that the EU should continue to support China on emissions trading in view of its plans to roll out a nationwide system in 2017. This document was further reinforced by the Council conclusions on EU strategy on China from 18 July 2016.

In this context, there is an increasing solid ground for more bilateral and international climate cooperation in such areas as domestic mitigation policies, carbon markets, low carbon cities, greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and maritime industries, and hydrofluorocarbons.

Let’s keep the momentum and implement pragmatic policies that can promote further structure reforms, innovation, and competitiveness both in the EU and China.