EU eyes joint efforts over global warming

Updated: 2015-03-07 07:52

By Martin Banks in Brussels(China Daily)

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Commissioner offers support in China's pledge to cut coal use and shows optimism for climate change cooperation

EU eyes joint efforts over global warming

The European Union's commissioner for climate action and energy has said "climate diplomacy" will be at the heart of Europe's relationship with China throughout 2015.

In an exclusive interview ahead of the ongoing two sessions, Miguel Arias Canete also said the EU was "ready to work" with China to tackle global warming.

The Spanish-born official appealed to other countries to "come forward" with their pledges to cut emissions as part of the UN global deal in the first quarter of this year.

Canete was speaking in the wake of "lengthy and detailed" discussions in Brussels about climate negotiations with Xie Zhenhua, former vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission and China's lead climate negotiator.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the EU and China and the commissioner said "climate diplomacy" will be "at the heart" of cooperation between the two in 2015.

The EU-China summit later this year, said Canete, will be a "great opportunity" for the EU and China to "reaffirm our commitment" to make the keenly-awaited Paris climate change conference in December a success.

"But the dialogue between our two countries on climate runs a lot deeper than the few major events we have planned throughout the year," he said.

Canete thought it may still be difficult weaning China off coal, its biggest source of energy. "There is no question that phasing out coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels, will be a challenge for China, as it is for all countries."

The EU, he argued, has also faced the challenge of phasing out coal, a fuel that used to "coat our cities in layers of pollution".

"Although we have made much progress in reducing our coal dependence, we still to have a way to go, and we understand how difficult the challenge is. We are ready to work with China and share our experiences."

Canete, who was appointed in 2014, said that in their recent meeting he and Xie talked about the timings and content of Chinese and EU contributions to the UN deal, and what the final agreement should look like.

"We also agreed to meet regularly throughout the year in the run-up to Paris. Working with China is one of my top priorities, and I believe our relationship can be one of the engines of the climate negotiations," Canete said.

The historic US-China climate agreement in November has sparked optimism on climate change cooperation between industrialized and developing countries. "I am optimistic, yes, but not complacent," Canete said.

China's CO2 emissions are more than four times India's total but Beijing made a pledge, as part of the Copenhagen voluntary commitments in 2009, to reduce its carbon intensity by 40-45 percent by 2020, compared to 2005.

Back in October of last year, the 28 member states of the EU collectively committed to a fully transparent, legally binding target of at least 40 percent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

"Now that the US and China have followed suit, together we have provisional pledges covering 50 percent of the world's emissions," Canete said.

He added: "We should build on this progress and all countries should now work on their formal submissions to send to the UN as early as possible."