China, EU to talk long term emissions goal – Canete

Power brokers to home in on climate at 29 June meet, while China may unveil critical carbon-cutting pledge, sources say

Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief with Wang Yi, China's Minister of Foreign Affairs (Pic: European External Action Service)

Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief with Wang Yi, China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in May (Pic: European External Action Service)

By Alex Pashley in Brussels

China and the European Union will discuss a future phase-out of fossil fuels at a bilateral summit next week, according to the EU’s energy and climate commissioner.

“We will discuss CCS [carbon capture and storage], carbon markets, a long term goal at the summit,” Miguel Arias Canete told reporters at a briefing in Brussels.

EU sources close to the talks say China could use the event to launch its eagerly awaited climate action plan, expected before the end of June.

The EU is targeting a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 2010 levels. Leading member states pushed the G7 to declare the need to decarbonise the global economy “over the course of this century”.

China promised to peak its carbon emissions around 2030 in a joint declaration with the United States last November. That surprise announcement trumped the EU’s commitment weeks earlier to cut emissions by at least 40% by 2030 on 1990 levels.

If the world’s biggest emitter uses the Brussels visit to announce the details – its “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC) to a UN deal – it will be a signal the EU is still a significant player.

Report: Ditching China’s coal addiction will take decades, warns expert

The core commitments are not expected to change. Beijing has already set a goal to get 20% of energy from clean sources by 2020.

But some elements may be strengthened. US climate envoy Todd Stern expects the country to further cut its carbon intensity – CO2 emitted per unit of energy produced – from 40 to 45% on 2005 levels by 2020, Bloomberg reported.

EU projections see China peaking its emissions by 2025, five years earlier than stated. That fits with the forecasts of top Chinese energy expert Yufeng Yang, although he warns of a long plateau as coal continues to play a major role for decades.

Miguel Arias Cañete, is a Spanish former environment minister (Flickr/ EU in Peru)

Miguel Arias Cañete, is a Spanish former environment minister (Flickr/ EU in Peru)

China’s strategy is marked by conservatism which will see them over-accomplish targets, an EU spokesperson said.

“In the Chinese mind, they don’t want to put something on the table, because then people say you promised and didn’t deliver – that would be the worst for them.” For example, they would not want a repeat of Canada’s bowing out of the Kyoto protocol in 2011 as emissions soared.

China accounts for over a quarter of global emissions and is critical to striking a robust pact at UN talks in Paris this December. Countries are aiming to limit temperature rise to 2C on pre-industrial levels – although it is widely recognised existing policies will not be enough.

China’s national carbon market: When, where and how?

Building on seven regional pilots, China is developing a national plan for a carbon market to take effect in 2016 or 2017. The EU has had its emission trading scheme in place since 2005.

But it has so far resisted attempts to make deep emissions cuts, which it fears would slow poverty reduction. The Asian country too rejected calls to make assessments of its pledge within the UN framework.

“The good thing with China is that every time we meet, we know each other better, so that when we meet in Paris we know each other’s position,” Canete told reporters, in response to a question from RTCC.

A key battleground is bringing down a firewall set up in 1992 between developed and developing countries, making only the former responsible for emissions cuts.

“’Common but differentiated responsibility’ is a red line for many people,” Canete said.

A success of last year’s conference in Lima was to insert the phrase “in light of different national circumstances”. Borrowed from the US-China agreement, this was seen to soften the divide between rich and poor, recognising the increasing responsibility of emerging economies.

“There’s no logic to stay with annex and non-annex countries,” said Canete. “Some areas of China have a larger gross national product than some EU member states.”

Read more on: China | Climate politics | EU | UN climate talks |