Europe-China summit will have global climate impact

Written by Jo Leinen on 29 June 2015 in Opinion

The EU-China relationship must focus on mutually supportive climate policies, says Jo Leinen.

The 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the EU and China is an important moment for both sides to look back over the past four decades, but it is also a chance to set our course for the future.

The coming months and years will be crucial for relations between the European Union and China. We are at a point in time where major decisions need to be taken if we are to demonstrate that two of the world's largest economic and political blocs can work together to address global challenges.

There is no doubt that the EU-China summit on 29 June is the one event that will show whether we can count on something important in EU-China relations or if we will have to satisfy ourselves simply with celebratory speeches.


The summit partners will of course discuss trade relations, global security and, although less publicly, human rights issues. This time, however, I expect the EU and China to concentrate on a subject that affects every citizen in the world.

At the end of the year there will be an important climate conference in Paris, and we know that without China and without the EU, there will be no climate deal. We know that at the Brussels summit, both parties should sign a common pledge to seek a global climate agreement at the UN's COP21 climate summit.

This can be a historic moment and create a strong signal ahead of the Paris conference. This pledge must be followed by concrete steps. Both Brussels and Beijing need to scale up their commitments to reach their climate goals.

The EU's 2030 target of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 base levels is not good enough to stabilise global warming but it is still more ambitious than the proposals most other large economies have put on the table.

The EU needs its ambitions to be matched by the world's major economies, which includes China and the US. And if in Paris the biggest emitters - the United States and China - turn up with ambitious goals and objectives, I expect Europe to step up its efforts.

In the EU, we would like to see China hit the high point of its CO2 emissions earlier than 15 years from now as we are aware that the announced peak year of 2030 represents a conservative estimate.

Currently, the EU and China are already cooperating on climate protection, namely on technology transfer, power generation, transportation and on building emissions trading scheme pilot projects in China.

This cooperation should be further strengthened in the future and could well be enlarged to include digital technologies for creating smart green growth. Both Brussels and Beijing have elaborated major 'digital agendas' and, at the EU-China summit, the focus must also be put on their role in building sustainable green economies.

Despite its continuing transition from a developing country to a more developed one, China already has a future strategy for clean industries and clean cities that will benefit the nation and the world. The major focus of the EU-China relationship in the coming years must be to support each other in their climate protection policy.


About the author

Jo Leinen (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Germany) is chair of parliament's delegation for relations with the People's Republic of China

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