What are the Opportunities for the EU from Low Carbon Growth in China?
In the first of two articles from GLOBE UK members, Barry Gardiner MP, joint Chair of GLOBE UK and Vice President of GLOBE International, looks at the positive steps China is taking to increase the carbon productivity of its economy and what opportunities are for the EU of closer collaboration with China on low carbon growth.
The Government have a strong link and positive engagement with India, and they need to step up to the mark in the same way in China, reinforcing their commitment there. That would prove tremendously positive, not just for climate change and climate change negotiations, but for our own economy, including our exports.
At the GLOBE summit of legislators that took place a month before COP 15 in Copenhagen, Chairman Wang Guangtao and Congressman Ed Markey put their heads together. That was an extraordinary engagement, in that legislators from the two countries that have been seen, in some respects, as the key blockers to an international agreement came together and agreed a set of legislative principles upon which climate negotiations could advance.
The International Energy Agency estimates that China will account for half of the growth in energy-related emissions to 2030. For almost a decade, that is the sort of fact that has been used to vilify China, painting it as the villain of the piece, and politicians have sometimes used it as an excuse for inaction. Indeed, the fact that China produces so many emissions is one of the most trenchant arguments used in the US Senate for taking no action on climate change.
The Chinese economy will, of course, remain one of the most powerful engines of climate change for the next two decades, but at the same time the scale of its own ambition for decarbonisation will, I think, be a turning point in global efforts to halt the pace of climate change. China’s approach, although much of it based on domestic political reasons, because of the problems with pollution in its own cities, is driving China to take really positive steps to increase not only decarbonisation but the carbon productivity of its economy, at the same time as making great advances on renewables.
The International Energy Agency’s “World Energy Outlook 2012” estimates that by 2035 China will have increased its windpower capacity to 330 GW. That is 40% greater than the global wind capacity in 2011, which gives some sense of the scale at which China is moving.
The engagement that international legislators through GLOBE have been able to have with Minister Xie Zhenhua and Su Wei, who is one of the central figures under the Minister as the key negotiator and formulator of China’s policy in this area, has been extraordinary. In October 2011, Minister Xie came to London as part of a delegation hosted by GLOBE. He met senior political figures from all three major UK parties—including Cabinet Office Ministers, the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and the Leader of the Opposition—as well as senior Members of the European Parliament, and it was agreed that a regular second track to negotiations should be established.
In Venice in September 2012, that second track took off when the Chinese delegation—led by Su Wei, the director general of the Department of Climate Change in the National Development and Reform Commission—agreed the approach now being carried forward by China and GLOBE in Europe. Lord Prescott and Lord Deben recently visited China with a delegation of legislators from France and other parts of Europe to negotiate with the Chinese on an initiative about how the EU and China can work together to reduce carbon emissions through product standards. Joint standards agreed between the world’s biggest single market and the largest economy in waiting have the potential to drive global emission reductions and deliver competitive advantage to both European and Chinese firms. The EU must seize this opportunity.