Greg Barker: China’s domestic ambition must be reflected in international climate negotiations

By Tierney Smith

UK Climate Change Minister Greg Barker

Greg Barker said China's international ambition should match that which they are showing domestically (Source: DECC/Flickr)

China’s domestic ambitions to boost its renewable energy capacity must be mirrored at international climate negotiations, according to UK  Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker.

Speaking to a Parliamentary committee, Barker said he hoped China’s domestic and international policies would find more unity in the build up to this year’s UN climate talks (COP18) in Doha.

“We do need to see a greater unity of purpose,” he said.

“Some of the things that China is doing domestically are outstanding, and there is a great deal of ambition there. But it makes it all the more puzzling that often that ambition isn’t reflected in the international negotiations.

“We would like to see a greater symmetry between action at home and ambition internationally.”

China received the brunt of the criticism following the Bonn Climate Talks in May, where they became part of what has been labelled the “coalition of the unwilling” for slowing down the negotiation process.

Most notably, in the EU press conference at the end of the talks, Connie Hedegaard, Commissioner for Climate Action, said that the conference had not discussed “anything of substance” and pointed China out as a notable barrier to progress.

Pete Betts, Director of International Climate Change at the Department for Energy and Climate Change and EU negotiators told today’s committee: “We never criticise China for its domestic delivery, we always on the contrary praise it, and they are certainly doing a lot at home.

“What we did criticise them for in the course of the negotiations was the way they used the process in Bonn to prevent progress, making very, very long interventions, re-opening the Durban Package, questioning almost every aspect of it at very great length and incurring the frustration not just of the EU but of many developing countries.”

He added these tactics often diverted attention away from the great work the country is doing at home on climate change.

John Ashton, the Foreign Secretary’s Former Special Representative on Climate Change, told RTCC earlier in the year, that the role China will play in driving green growth should not be underestimated.

“You can drive innovation more cheaply and deploy more technologies to scale more cheaply in China than you can pretty much anywhere else,” he said. “There are big opportunities to partner with Chinese companies and pioneer new technologies in the Chinese market.”

Road to Doha

Today’s panel said that their aim and hopes for the COP18 conference in November was for a work plan to be agreed which would set out clear deadlines over the next few years in the build up to 2015, at which point a new globally binding agreement should be finalised.

One of the major barriers to such an agreement – which will cover all countries – is the ongoing debate around the concept of Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Equity.

When quizzed on this Barker said that the UK takes the concept very seriously and aims to open up the discussion with India– one of the countries pushing hardest for the inclusion of this term into the Durban Platform agreed at COP17 last December.

Before the concept can be put into practice though,  Barker says a clear definition of what the idea means in practice must be realised.

“It is fair to say that there isn’t a uniform acceptance of what that well known phase or term actually means amongst developing countries,” he said. “In fact there isn’t even a uniformly accepted defininition of what that means or how it should be taken to mean in India. I have spoken to several different members of the Indian government who each have a slightly different interpretation.

“I think we should be less afraid of discussing the issues of equity and fairness,” he added. “We can’t be against fairness or against equity but obviously we need to recognise we need to come to a definition that doesn’t stand in the way or impose impossible burdens of future negotiations.”

More climate policy stories:

– 25/05/2012 – What did the Bonn talks achieve?

– 25/05/2012 – UK youth say negotiators must ensure intergenerational equity

– 29/06/2012 – PODCAST: Are women the key to moving climate change debate forward?


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