EU can­not be lonely leader on cli­mate

China Daily European Weekly - - Comment - Jo Leinen The au­thor is chair­man of the del­e­ga­tion for re­la­tions with China at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. The views of the story do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

China can be per­fect part­ner for Euro­pean Union’s am­bi­tions to strengthen world­wide ef­forts to tackle global warm­ing

The Paris cli­mate ac­cord reached in the French cap­i­tal in 2015 was made pos­si­ble by the ur­gency and po­lit­i­cal ne­ces­sity felt by the global com­mu­nity. To main­tain the cred­i­bil­ity of in­ter­na­tional cli­mate ac­tion and the in­tegrity of the Paris Agree­ment, firm im­ple­men­ta­tion and con­crete emis­sion re­duc­tions are needed now. This mas­sive task can only be suc­cess­ful if ma­jor economies, strong po­lit­i­cal forces and per­sis­tent voices work to­gether to counter pop­ulists, ego­ists and cli­mate de­niers and prove that a com­mon ef­fort within a func­tion­ing United Na­tions frame­work can de­liver re­sults. Europe can­not be a lonely leader. It needs strong and de­ter­mined al­lies around the globe — China be­ing the most im­por­tant one.

This year’s UN cli­mate sum­mit in Ka­tow­ice, Poland, will be a mo­ment of truth. As well as hav­ing the (un­easy) task of agree­ing on a rule­book for im­ple­ment­ing the Paris Agree­ment, the par­ties will also take stock of the pledges made so far. Demon­strat­ing ac­tual progress as well as po­lit­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity and as­sur­ance to­ward the Paris process will be a third, and equally im­por­tant, chal­lenge. In Poland, the global com­mu­nity needs to see the birth of a coali­tion for strong and rapid im­ple­men­ta­tion of the cli­mate agree­ment. The joint EU-China “Lead­ers’ State­ment on Cli­mate Change and Clean En­ergy” from July 2018 must be the first build­ing block of this coali­tion.

Cli­mate ac­tion be­came the cen­tral theme of the EU-China meet­ing in Bei­jing this year. The joint state­ment un­der­lines the im­por­tance and value of the mul­ti­lat­eral sys­tem. Its mes­sage is ex­tremely valu­able at a time when cli­mate ac­tion needs an­other push at UN level. The two economies, China and the EU, have com­mit­ted to ac­tion be­fore 2020, and to ad­vance the process of the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change. With po­lit­i­cal dis­agree­ments in other ar­eas, it is strate­gi­cally im­por­tant to fo­cus on com­mon ob­jec­tives and ideas like the fight against cli­mate change and the pro­mo­tion of clean en­ergy tech­nolo­gies. The lead­ers’ recog­ni­tion of the im­por­tance of devel­op­ing free trade and in­vest­ment in this con­text is quite re­mark­able in a year dom­i­nated by trade wars and the rhetoric of par­ti­tion.

Be­sides the po­lit­i­cal im­pact of the EU-China state­ment, its ef­fec­tive­ness will be proved by con­crete ac­tions and pledges. With the spe­cial 1.5 de­gree In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change re­port ex­pected this au­tumn, and the con­clu­sion of the Talanoa Di­a­logue on cli­mate in Ka­tow­ice, pres­sure will mount on world lead­ers to in­crease ef­forts to ef­fec­tively limit global warm­ing. In this re­gard, the an­nounced co­op­er­a­tion in spe­cific fields, such as emis­sion trad­ing, clean en­ergy tech­nolo­gies, zero-emis­sion ve­hi­cles and low-car­bon cities, has un­der­lined the EU’s and China’s ap­proach to seek­ing growth po­ten­tials and syn­er­gies, fos­ter­ing ex­changes of ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge, and pro­mot­ing the de­vel­op­ment of tech­nolo­gies and con­cepts to­gether.

With the UN cli­mate sum­mit in Poland just a few months away, the EU as host will be an im­por­tant ne­go­ti­at­ing party. The EU does not want to go to Ka­tow­ice emp­ty­handed. The first draft of its long-term zero emis­sions strat­egy is ex­pected in Novem­ber 2018, and an in­creased 2030 tar­get is un­der dis­cus­sion. Dur­ing the past two years, EU leg­is­la­tors have agreed on ma­jor cli­mate and en­ergy laws, en­abling Europe to in­crease its cli­mate pledge for 2030. At the up­com­ing sum­mit, a push for more am­bi­tion in cli­mate ac­tion is des­per­ately needed. An in­creased EU pledge could be a promis­ing and po­lit­i­cally im­por­tant mes­sage, en­cour­ag­ing other mem­bers of the UN cli­mate con­ven­tion to take fur­ther ac­tion to re­duce CO2.

While the EU will prob­a­bly over­achieve on its pledge to cut emis­sions by 40 per­cent un­til 2030 com­pared with 1990 lev­els, ac­cel­er­ated cli­mate change pro­vides an im­pe­tus for EU mem­ber states to agree on more am­bi­tious tar­gets for 2030, as well as for 2050. Crit­ics have warned be­fore that the cur­rent con­tri­bu­tion is ac­tu­ally not in line with the ob­jec­tives of the Paris Agree­ment.

Re­cent re­forms of al­most all ma­jor cli­mate laws al­low the EU to aim for a higher tar­get. While emis­sions from sec­tors fall­ing un­der the Emis­sion Trad­ing Scheme have de­creased faster than ex­pected, the EU car­bon price ba­si­cally dou­bled when the re­form passed both EU leg­isla­tive cham­bers this year. Agree­ing on a leg­isla­tive pack­age to form a Euro­pean En­ergy Union in June 2018 was an­other big step to­ward de­car­boniz­ing the Euro­pean econ­omy. In par­tic­u­lar, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment pushed for higher tar­gets for the de­ploy­ment of re­new­able en­er­gies and en­hanced en­ergy sav­ings. Af­ter dif­fi­cult ne­go­ti­a­tions, the new laws fore­see that in 2030, en­ergy con­sump­tion should be made up of 32 per­cent re­new­ables, in­stead of the 27 per­cent en­vis­aged by heads of state in 2014. En­ergy con­sump­tion should be 32.5 per­cent less in 2030 com­pared with busi­ness as usual, whereas the ini­tial pro­posal fore­saw a re­duc­tion of only 27 to 30 per­cent.

Be­sides plans for the en­ergy sec­tor, a bet­ter bal­ance is be­ing pur­sued be­tween emis­sions from agri­cul­ture or other land use and car­bon re­moval by forests, wet­lands and grass­land. More fo­cus will be put on the EU’s trans­porta­tion sec­tor in com­ing years. En­vi­ron­men­tal politi­cians in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment are de­mand­ing a sig­nif­i­cant switch to­ward low- and zero-emis­sion ve­hi­cles in cur­rent ne­go­ti­a­tions for new CO2 stan­dards.

These de­vel­op­ments seem to be ev­i­dence of a higher cli­mate am­bi­tion. EU Cli­mate Com­mis­sioner Arias Canete wants to pro­pose that EU gov­ern­ments in­crease the EU 2030 tar­get from 40 of 45 per­cent, based on the new en­ergy laws, and to reach this agree­ment be­fore the sum­mit. Sev­eral mem­ber states, such as Swe­den and the Nether­lands, have even asked for a 55 per­cent re­duc­tion com­pared with 1990 lev­els. A higher EU 2030 tar­get will cer­tainly help ease pres­sure for the pe­riod be­tween 2030 and 2050 and set the EU’s in­dus­try and econ­omy on the right track.

While all states have been asked — by 2020 — to re­view and scale up the cli­mate tar­gets they sub­mit­ted in 2015 un­der the Paris Agree­ment, the EU’s more am­bi­tious tar­gets could pro­vide an im­por­tant im­pe­tus for this process. How­ever, at­ten­tion also needs to be drawn to the long-term per­spec­tive to­ward mid­cen­tury. The 2050 low-car­bon strate­gies are due in 2020 and re­quest all states to de­velop con­cepts to re­duce emis­sions in all ma­jor eco­nomic fields. Be­ing a strong econ­omy and the third-big­gest emit­ter in the world, the EU should aim to be­come cli­mate-neu­tral by 2050 at the lat­est. A 2050 roadmap is a real op­por­tu­nity to lay down eco­nomic, tech­no­log­i­cal and in­dus­try pri­or­i­ties as well. The 2050 plan needs to be­come the EU’s mas­ter plan for the fu­ture. In their Lead­ers’ State­ment, the EU and China have com­mit­ted to co­op­er­ate on the for­mu­la­tion of the mid­cen­tury strate­gies through reg­u­lar tech­ni­cal di­a­logues. Both sides will ex­change ideas for their fu­ture economies and so­ci­eties.

Po­lit­i­cally, it is ex­tremely im­por­tant to show that two of the world’s big­gest economies are on board, as a coun­ter­bal­ance to the rhetoric of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and other cli­mate de­niers. The EU and China should widen their cli­mate coali­tion and seek al­lies on all con­ti­nents, tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity to strengthen the axis be­tween Euro­pean and Asian coun­tries on cli­mate ac­tion. The EU seems to be ready to step up its own ac­tions. To make a force­ful im­pact, how­ever, it can­not be a lonely leader. Al­lies are in­vited to share global cli­mate lead­er­ship. China can be a per­fect part­ner.


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