This article has been updated to include comment from Greenpeace.
A China-EU Summit held on Monday resulted in the signing of a joint statement between the two economic powers on climate change and clean energy, which reaffirms their respective commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and to intensify their cooperation on climate change and clean energy.
Relations between China and the European Union have not always been smooth when it comes to their cooperation (or lack thereof) on climate change and clean energy, as was highlighted the last time these two powers met in June of 2017, when talks collapsed after the text of their proposed joint climate statement was leaked.
However, the text of the “Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change and Clean Energy” which was signed in Beijing on July 16 between the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the Council, Donald Tusk, and the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, is almost identical, suggesting that the shifting global political landscape — driven primarily by the actions of US President Donald Trump — have been able to smooth over whatever bumps were evident last time around.
In addition to the Leaders’ Statement, Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and the Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will see the two powers increase their cooperation on emissions trading.
“We have underlined our joint, strong determination to fight climate change and demonstrate global leadership,” said President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, welcome the signing. “It shows our commitment to multilateralism and recognises that climate change is a global challenge affecting all countries on earth. There is no time for us to sit back and watch passively. Now is the time for decisive action.”
In addition to a joint statement summarizing the entirety of discussions between the EU and China — which comes in at 3,500 words and 8 pages in length, runs to 44 separate points of agreement and praise, and only gets to their joint commitments on climate change and clean energy by point 28 — the two powers also published the Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change and Clean Energy (PDF) which itself runs to 8 pages and 15 points (plus annex). And while the text is nearly identical to that of the one dumped last year, their willingness to publish a statement that leads with the following is telling:
“The EU and China consider climate action and the clean energy transition an imperative more important than ever. They confirm their commitments under the historic 2015 Paris Agreement and step up their co-operation to enhance its implementation.”
The new Statement builds on from previous agreements made between the two powers — the EU-China Joint Statement on Climate Change in 2015 and the EU-China Roadmap on Energy Cooperation in 2016 — to “significantly intensify their political, technical, economic and scientific cooperation on climate change and clean energy, in view of the necessary world-wide transformation to a resource efficient, sustainable, low greenhouse gas emission and climate resilient economy and society, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.”
Unlike some statements that have been made in the past 18 months by supranational bodies and institutions or summits, no mention was made of the United States’ decision to abrogate its responsibility to the Paris Agreement or its current President’s seemingly-willful intentions to act contrary to the otherwise-unanimous action of the global community regarding climate change and clean energy. This is either unsurprising or telling, and more likely a little of both, considering the current tension that already exists between both the EU and China with the United States.
“This climate statement reaffirms the resolve of Beijing and Brussels to take the Paris Agreement forward in this crucial year for climate diplomacy,” said Tara Connolly, EU Climate and Energy Policy Director for Greenpeace. “China and the EU understand the opportunities offered by a clean and climate safe world.
“As climate impacts start to bite across the world, the need to act on climate change is more urgent than ever. To demonstrate their alignment is more than just a marriage of convenience and to show a genuine will to lead, both sides must enhance their climate targets for 2030. This statement should be the first step in that direction.”