VIP Round table Discussion: How Can the EU and China Work Together on Climate Action?

October 18th, 2011

A VIP round table discussion jointly organised between Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) & China Carbon Forum (CCF). Main issues: There was agreement that the EU and China share very much common ground, such as:

  • Scarcity of acceptable and reliable fossil fuels
  • Heavy emphasis on renewable energy
  • Willingness to take strong climate action
  • Strong technology focus, perhaps EU more on innovation and China more on production

Many participants shared the perception that the UNFCCC negotiations are in gridlock with no real expectations for Durban. It was suggested that there is no alternative to a global negotiation process, as the climate problem has to be solved on a global scale.

The inclusion of the aviation sector into the EU ETS was only briefly mentioned as an example and there was no prolonged discussion or strong counterarguments.

Chinese experts showed some areas where the opinions differed among them. Some expressed frustration that China wants to limit total energy consumption in order to reach its energy efficiency goals. Instead they propose market mechanism to reach this goal in order to ensure access to energy and especially electricity, as this is vital for the population and for the industry and also a more rational way to promote efficiency.

Both sides agreed that legally binding agreements can be meaningless if they are not going to be enforced anyway. Canada was raised as an example. All agreed it is better to have meaningful action without a legally binding agreement than to have no action under a legally binding agreement.

Chinese experts felt that the best way to convince others is by setting the right example.

As the trust to achieve meaningful progress in the climate negotiations was generally limited, some experts put forward the case of technical cooperation and took the development of renewable energy in China as example: China developed renewable energy very successfully in the last decade. This is because it has taken this decision on its own and based on an assessment of its own needs. Thus the focus on concrete technical cooperation and on driving its own technological development is much more meaningful and efficient than international negotiation processes. Thus the technical cooperation should be moved forward and be focused on in the further climate negotiation process.

Several Chinese experts expressed concern that China would stand to lose if it agreed on some internationally binding agreement. There was also the feeling that China might be the loser in the negotiations if siding with Europe in order to push the US. So there was no clear position on joint action towards the UNFCCC negotiations. Even so, some things were clarified:

  • China really doesn’t want anything which would be ‘laid upon it’ from the outside. It would have to be something China put forward by itself or jointly.
  • The Chinese all expressed hope that the EU would continue with Kyoto, but the EU is faced with fewer and fewer parties in it, and so the future is very uncertain. The Chinese didn’t make any hint that they would be willing to join Kyoto now or in the future.
  • Some Chinese experts agreed that given the commonalities between the EU and China, there is still a lot of potential for additional cooperation. Strong bilateral action might also invigorate the international process.

Possible area of bilateral cooperation suggested included:

  • low carbon housing
  • low carbon urbanization

Guest Speaker: Mr. Jos Delbeke, Director-General, DG Climate Action, European Commission


Mr. Sun Zhen, Deputy Director General, NDRC Climate Change Department

Dr. Li Junfeng, Deputy Director, NDRC Energy Research Institute

Mr. Jiang Kejun, Energy Research Institute

Prof. Lin Erda, China Academy of Agricultural Sciences

Dr. Zou Ji, Country Director, World Resources Institute

Prof. Pan Jiahua, China Academy of Social Sciences

Prof. Wang Yi, China Academy of Sciences

Prof. Qi Ye, Tsinghua University, Fmr head of energy foundation in China

Prof. Hu Tao, Senior Economist, Ministry of Environmental Protection

Prof. Wei Zhihong, Tsinghua University, Global Climate Change Institute

Prof. Zhang Haibin, Peking University

Dr. Teng Fei, Tsinghua University

Ms. Vicky Pollard, Policy Officer Directorate General Climate Action, European Commission, Brussels

Ms. Heidi Hiltunen, Environment Counsellor in the EU Delegation to China

Closing: Dimitri de Boer, Vice Chairman of China Carbon Forum

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