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China-EU partnership key to tackling climate change

Author  :  WANG XIAOZHEN     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-09-24

In early September, the Tsinghua University Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development together with the Delegation of the European Union to China co-hosted an event on the launch of the Chinese version of A European Long-term Strategic Version for a Prosperous, Modern, Competitive and Climate Neutral Economy, the EU’s analysis underlying its 2050 vision.

On Nov. 28, 2018, the European Commission adopted the strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy by 2050—“A Clean Planet for All.” The proposal has been submitted to EU member states as well as the European Parliament and is expected to be submitted to the UN after approval.

Timothy Harrington, chargé d’affaires of the Delegation of the European Union to China, said: “Climate change is now no doubt the fi rst priority for the EU.”

As key partners in tackling climate change, China and the EU are facing similar opportunities and challenges. He Jiankun, chairman of the Academic Committee of the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University, said in his opening remarks: “To control the global temperature rise within 1.5℃ instead of within 2℃, the time is more pressing and costs would be much higher for the de-carboning process.”

Ursula von der Leyen, the new European Commission president, has put climate change at the top of her agenda. She has committed to introducing legislation to toughen up the EU’s 2030 target of a 40% emissions cut to a 50% cut below 1990 levels. Also, the EU will take the lead in future international climate negotiations to increase the level of ambition of other large emitters by 2021.

Artur Runge-Metzger, director of Climate Strategy, Governance and Emissions from Nontrading Sectors and directorategeneral for Climate Action of the European Commission, said that because of the impact of climate change, Europe’s agriculture production in 2019 is predicted to be below its annual average level. These multilevel infl uences indicate that Europe is in need of comprehensive reforms to head toward a low-carbon economic growth.

Runge-Metzger introduced paths for the transition to a netzero greenhouse gas emissions economy and its strategic priorities. The transition gives energy a central role and asks for high-level technical innovations in such areas as energy, architecture, traffi c, industry and agriculture. The road to a net-zero greenhouse gas economy could be based on joint action along a set of seven main strategic building blocks: maximize the benefits from energy efficiency including zero-emission buildings; maximize the deployment of renewables and the use of electricity to fully decarbonize Europe’s energy supply; embrace clean, safe and connected mobility; use the EU’s competitive industry and circular economy as a key enabler to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; develop an adequate and interconnected smart network infrastructure; reap the full benefits of a bio-economy and create essential carbon sinks; and tackle remaining CO2 emissions with carbon capture and storage.

As Runge-Metzger said, to realize this transition, an enabling framework is needed to spur research and innovation, scale up private investments, provide the right signals to markets, and ensure social cohesion. He also emphasized the role of citizens and local authorities. Improving consumers’ environmental awareness is very important, as each person’s choice of house, energy provider, vehicle, and domestic appliances and equipment impacts his or her carbon footprint for many years to come. In the meantime, governments should work on the improvement of urban reconstruction, spatial planning and housing overhaul to attract people to reside near their workplace, so as to improve quality of life. Governments should also make sure that extreme weather is taken into account in the planning and construction of public infrastructure. In this way, the EU could encourage districts, cities and counties to play a larger role.

Open markets, a globalized world and multilateralism are preconditions for the EU to be able to benefit from the clean energy transition, domestically as well as globally. The low-carbon transition and climate change issue cannot be resolved without international cooperation. This starts with enhancing EU energy and climate diplomacy and with further mainstreaming climate change objectives and considerations in political dialogues.

He Jiankun noted that the EU’s vision has set a trend for energy reform and low-carbon economic transition in the global agenda. It has generated broad influence around the world. The launch of its Chinese version could help China to better plan its own longterm strategy of low-carbon development. China will take further action to contribute efforts to maintain global ecological security.

Editor: Yu Hui

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