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China-EU climate cooperation good for global governance

By Liu Yuanling | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-12-03 09:04

Flags of China and the European Union are seen in this photo. [Photo/VCG]

At the invitation of President Xi Jinping, European Council President Charles Michel visited China on Dec 1. This is the resumption of face-to-face exchanges between Chinese and European Union leaders after a two-year hiatus. It was Michel's first visit to China after he assumed the presidency of the European Council, and also the first visit to China by a European Council president since July 2018.

It was also the first official meeting between the leaders of China and European Union institutions after the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

Michel's visit to China presents the opportunity for the two sides to join hands to tackle the climate crisis.

According to the latest report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are currently at their highest level in history. Greenhouse gas emissions fell sharply in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures, but in 2021 they matched or even surpassed the 2019 record, which was about 12 percent higher than in 2010, and 54 percent higher than in 1990 when the IPCC released its first report. Unless global greenhouse gas emissions peak within three years and greenhouse gas emissions are nearly halved by 2030, the world will likely experience more extreme climate impacts. China-Europe climate cooperation can help address the global climate and environmental challenges.

Climate cooperation remains the glue and booster of China-EU relations. In recent years, due to the deteriorating geopolitical, economic, and security situations, the world is facing more and more uncertainties. While responding to the climate crisis, countries have to face their own inherent uncertainties. Although China and the EU are active actors with significant differences in politics, economy, culture and other aspects in the international community, the two sides have been working together to jointly address the climate and environmental crises for a long time.

China and the EU have demonstrated a common commitment to climate change action. Both China and the EU were important actors in securing the Paris Agreement and are playing leading roles in the global efforts to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, or preferably 1.5 C, above pre-industrial levels. China proposed in 2020 to peak its carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and to strive to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. The European Commission proposed a package plan to address climate change in 2021 that aims to reduce the EU's net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent compared with the 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

China and the EU have recognized the need for mutual cooperation and support on climate issues. Despite Europe's temporary embrace of fossil fuels especially coal due to the energy crisis as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the EU has been one of the leaders in global climate policy over the past few decades, both in terms of ideas and actions, which China can learn from. As an important contributor to global climate governance, China is in a leading position in the world in areas such as green finance and clean energy use. The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has made clear arrangements for China's future climate actions and affirmed again that China is willing to work with all parties to more effectively address the challenge of climate change.

China-EU climate cooperation has shown its resilience. For example, even in 2021, when bilateral relations were relatively fragile, China and the EU still held two rounds of high-level dialogues on the environment and climate.

However, China and the EU need to expand the basis for mutual trust through solid, concrete, detailed and effective cooperation on climate issues. For example, a special working group mechanism can be established to promote personnel exchanges and visits, and promote R&D and cooperation in the field of renewable energy, especially hydrogen energy; high-level strategic dialogues should also focus on the implementation of specific cooperative actions, such as the co-creation of a sustainable financial platform.

To bolster their climate cooperation, they need to prevent their differences becoming obstacles. For example, China, as a developing country, holds a negative attitude toward the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism launched by the EU that will be implemented in 2027. However, this does not mean that there can only be a sharp confrontation between the two sides on this issue. It should be possible to find room for the two sides to cooperate on the CBAM issue if the two sides put their heads and hands together.

The respective green actions of China and the EU have built a broad platform for climate cooperation. It is hoped that China and the EU will strengthen their cooperation and jointly play an active and leading role in tackling the climate crisis. By doing so, not only China and the EU, but also the whole world will benefit.

The author is a research fellow on climate change studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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