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China's climate envoy proposed to travel to U.S.
Xie Zhenhua, at CCG forum, says he meets John Kerry virtually almost on a biweekly basis and lays out China's vision for the COP 28 forum in Dubai this year.
Xie Zhenhua, China's Special Envoy for Climate Change, gave a major speech earlier today at the 9th China and Globalization Forum organized by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) in Beijing.
His audience includes ambassadors to China, among them U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns and European Union Ambassador Jorge Toledo, who also gave speeches.
Xie said that he had already proposed to John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, that he could travel to a third country or the U.S. to meet his U.S. counterpart to further talk about combating the leading challenge globally, upon the almost biweekly virtual talk has been holding with Kerry for the past two months.
The previously-unreported revelation came amid grumblings in Washington D.C. about a perceived drought of senior Chinese visits to the U.S. Chinese Vice President Han Zheng just visited New York for a United Nations General Assembly meeting. Wang Wentao, China’s commerce minister, visited Washington D.C. in an APEC meeting.
Looking ahead at the upcoming COP28 meeting in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Xie warned against the unrealistic goal of eliminating fossil fuel, quoting the COP 27 statement in Glasgow for "phasedown of unabated coal power." The intermittancy of renewable energy also necessitates flexible utilization of fossil fuels to maintain grid stability, energy security, and economic development, he added.
The Dubai COP 28 must make follow-up arrangements for doubling adaptation finance and the implementation and operation of the international Loss and Damage fund, clearly outlining the timetable and roadmap, Xie said, as it’s a matter of giving “hope” to developing countries.
Xie said the developed countries in 2023 must meet their 2009 pledge of giving 100 billion USD aid to developing countries in adapting to and mitigating climate change. The broken $100-billion promise of climate finance has been detrimental to the North-South collaboration on climate change.
“Only when developed countries provide climate finance can they convey positive policy signals, stabilize market expectations, leverage more resources from multilateral development banks, international financial institutions, the private sector, and non-governmental funds to flow towards developing countries and global areas of green, low-carbon, and climate-resilient development, " Xie said.
In an apparent jab at the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms, Xie said that relevant countries should refrain from resorting to similar “unilateral measures” and “work with other parties to address issues related to environmental integrity and carbon leakage under the carbon market and carbon pricing multilateral mechanism in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, promoting fair trade, technological innovation, and sustainable development.”
A U.S. Congressional Research Service report this year questions if the EU’s invention would comply with the World Trade Organization rules and whether it will be effective at all.
China is willing to work with the United States and Europe to assist other developing countries in developing renewable energy, enhancing climate resilience, and improving their capacity, Xie said.
Below is a translation of Xie’s speech in full. Xie hasn’t reviewed the translation. The highlights are ours. - Zichen, Yuxuan, Xinyi, and Nicki.
China, US, EU and Global Climate Dialogue for a Sustainable 21st Century
China's Special Envoy for Climate Change, Xie Zhenhua
September 21, 2023
Honorable Minister Chen Deming, Your Excellencies and Ambassadors, President Henry Huiyao Wang, Distinguished Guests,
Good morning. I am delighted to be part of today's Ambassadors' Roundtable.
2023 UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 28), which is less than a hundred days away, poses as the primary task for this year's multilateral process. To achieve this, China has been intensively engaging in dialogues and consultations with the United States, Europe, and other relevant parties, according President Xi Jinping's instructions, to seek solutions to the disagreements surrounding the conference.
In July this year, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry visited China. During his visit, Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Vice President Han Zheng, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi each held separate meetings with him. Over the course of three days, Kerry and I engaged in nearly 30 hours of discussions, with Nicholas Burns, U.S. Ambassador to China, also participating in related events. China and the U.S. comprehensively exchanged views on the scientific aspects of climate change, each country's domestic climate actions, bilateral practical cooperation, and multilateral processes. Both sides agreed to continue implementing the consensus of the two countries' heads of state, maintaining communication, and contributing Chinese and American solutions to the success of the COP 28. Over the past two months, Kerry and I have had video conferences almost every two weeks, addressing key issues for COP 28 and promoting practical cooperation in the 2020s. So far, we have had over 50 discussions. I proposed to Kerry that, if necessary, I am willing to travel to a third-party country, even to the U.S., in our efforts to achieve positive outcomes that benefit both countries and people worldwide.
In July, Chinese Vice Premier Ding Xuexiang and [former] Executive Vice-President (EVP) of the European Commission Frans Timmermans held the fourth China-EU High Level Dialogue on Environment and Climate (HECD). This was the first offline meeting since the establishment of the dialogue mechanism. Following the dialogue, both sides issued a joint press release, committing to further implement the consensus reached by the leaders of China and the EU, enhance dialogue and communication, work together to ensure the success of COP 28, and identify key areas of cooperation, including circular economy, biodiversity, chemical management, plastic pollution, national carbon markets, climate change adaptation, methane emissions management, and green energy transition. In preparation for the high-level dialogue, I held respective meetings with [former] Vice-President Timmermans and Ambassador Jorge Toledo. Those meetings with Timmermans were very successful. Timmermans has returned to his home country for elections, and I wish him all the best. I also hope to continue the dialogue with his successor to contribute to the success of COP 28 with China-EU efforts.
Furthermore, China has initiated dialogues with the host country, the United Arab Emirates, along with other relevant parties, international organizations, and the UN Secretary-General. Sultan Al Jaber, the President-Designate of COP 28, has told me many times that this year is a crucial year for negotiations, and that the host country's work faces many challenges. I am scheduled to meet with President Sultan soon to exchange views, and we are committed to making every effort to ensure the success of COP 28.
I will give a brief introduction to the key issues that have been the focal points of discussion among all parties concerning COP 28 during these dialogues:
Emission Reduction and Energy Transition. It is essential to prioritize energy transition in emission reduction actions. Respect for the national conditions of each country, in accordance with the principle of establishing the new before abolishing the old, is crucial to ensuring a just transition. For a start, China maintains an open attitude toward formulating a global renewable energy development goal for COP 28, which are acceptable to all parties, considering different national circumstances and combining qualitative and quantitative aspects. A potential solution has been proposed at the recent G20 Summit. The conference should not only set the goals but also consider their achievability and necessary conditions, such that they can truly be implemented.
Second, given the intermittency of renewable energy, fossil fuels should serve as a flexible and backup energy source when technologies such as large-scale energy storage, electric power transmission, smart grids, microgrids, are not yet fully mature. This is essential to ensure grid stability, safeguard energy supply security, and support socio-economic development. During the energy transition process, every country will go through such a phase. Facing these challenges, mutual understanding and cooperation should be sought to address practical difficulties.
Third, completely eliminating fossil energy is not realistic. This is why the COP 27 in Glasgow called on countries to adopt "phasedown of unabated coal power". The mitigation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels can be ensured by the development of Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) technology. Large-scale energy storage can also reduce emissions. Finally, it is expected that COP 28 will not only focus on emission reduction, or engage in empty talk about targets, but also consider development, security, and decarbonization, and explore how to carry out practical international cooperation to solve the actual difficulties faced in the transition including technical, trade, and supply chain issues, based on the exchange of progress in actions, best practices, and the foundation of facing difficult challenges.
Adaptation and Mitigation. First, China supports COP 28 in achieving global goal for adaption, which requires the balance the role of mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation focuses on reducing emissions and improving efficiency, while adaptation is aimed to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience. Currently, mitigation has been deeply integrated into various fields, including energy, industry, transportation, construction, and carbon sinks. Discussions on adaptation should refer to mitigation, avoiding abstract concepts or getting bogged down in technical details, and instead delve into concrete areas such as early warning and forecasting, disaster prevention and reduction, resilient cities, irrigation and water conservancy, and natural ecosystems, closely aligned with the realities of each country. The primary goal should be to address the safety of the people.
Second, the World Meteorological Organization has proposed that an investment of one billion US dollars can help all vulnerable developing countries implement early warning systems, addressing adaptation concerns and avoiding losses and damages. The implementation of the "Early Warnings for All" initiative proposed by UN Secretary-General can be considered as an important early gain, achieving significant results with a small investment.
Lastly, COP 28 should make follow-up arrangements for doubling adaptation finance and the implementation and operation of the international Loss and Damage fund, clearly outlining the timetable and roadmap, to give developing countries hope.
Financial, Technology and Capacity-building Support. Firstly, developed countries have not fulfilled their commitment to mobilising USD 100 billion per year made at the COP 15 Copenhagen in 2009, which pertains to the trust between the North and the South. The OECD report assessed the 2021 data to be 83.3 billion USD, still falling short by 17 billion USD. In reality, the developed countries do not recognize this. Many colleagues from developed countries, including Kerry and Timmermans, assured me that they would deliver on this commitment, which is good news. Although it has arrived 14 years late, it is still better than not being honored at all.
Secondly, discussions on the flow of funds should not deviate from developed countries fulfilling their obligations to provide climate finance and help developing countries receive greater support. According to the assessment of international organizations, to realize the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) proposed by all parties by 2030, the cumulative funding requirement ranges from $5.8 trillion to $5.9 trillion. To achieve the target of NDCs, over 100 trillion USD in total is required. The annual necessity for the global low-carbon economic transition is at least 4-6 trillion USD, which is different from the scope of the energy transition that I discussed earlier. While $100 billion is just a drop in the bucket, it is still crucial. Only when developed countries provide climate finance can they convey positive policy signals, stabilize market expectations, leverage more resources from multilateral development banks, international financial institutions, the private sector, and non-governmental funds to flow towards developing countries and global areas of green, low-carbon, and climate-resilient development.
Third, technology is the key for emission reduction actions and transition. The International Energy Agency report points out that half of the technologies required to achieve net-zero emissions are either not yet in commercial mass production or are in early-stage research and development. COP 28 should make further arrangements based on the vision of technology cooperation in Article 10 of the agreement, and solidify the arrangements for the technology framework, considering global energy transition and adaptation goals. Fourthly, lack of capacity is the biggest obstacle for developing countries to implement their goals and enhance their efforts. The institutional arrangements for information report and project cooperation for capacity building under Article 11 should be further implemented, forming a work plan to enhance the capacity of developing countries in the crucial decade of the 2020s.
The First Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement and Strengthening International Cooperation. COP 28 will see the world's first global stocktake, a review of the world's collective progress toward the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. China's stance in this regard is: first, the stocktake should send out a positive message. According to assessments by relevant international organizations, if the Paris Agreement is not reached or not implemented, and if parties do not take action, global warming could reach 3.5 degrees Celsius or even higher. We must make every effort to avoid this scenario. When we sum up the actions taken by countries under the Paris Agreement, global warming could be limited to 2.6-2.8 degrees Celsius. This indicates progress in implementing the Paris Agreement by all parties, and the actions taken have had a positive impact. We should acknowledge this and continue to strengthen our efforts. If all the commitments made by parties since the Paris Agreement are fully implemented, global warming can be kept under control at 1.7 degrees Celsius, with the goal of achieving less than 2 degrees and striving for 1.5 degrees. This requires parties to maintain confidence, fulfill their commitments, and strive for faster transformation, innovation, and improvement.
Secondly, the stocktake should focus on international cooperation. An assessment of progress in various aspects, including mitigation, adaptation, and support, should be conducted fairly, scientifically, and comprehensively, identifying gaps. Ultimately, narrowing these gaps requires strengthening international cooperation, which can accelerate transformation, innovation, and the enhancement of efforts. The results of the stocktake should provide practical solutions for addressing obstacles that affect global climate action and cooperation, initiating a new journey to strengthen the implementation of the Paris Agreement and enhance international cooperation in the critical decade of the 2020s, preparing for parties to submit new NDCs in 2025. China is willing to work with the United States and Europe to assist other developing countries in developing renewable energy, enhancing climate resilience, and improving their capacity.
Furthermore, it is essential for all parties to create a conducive diplomatic environment for international cooperation, build an open economic and trade system, adhere to multilateralism and globalization, oppose trade protectionism and unilateral actions. Research indicates that if trade protectionism continues, photovoltaic module prices are expected to be 20%-25% higher by 2030 compared to a scenario of globalization. This is detrimental to achieving the G20 Summit's goal of tripling global renewable energy by 2030 compared to 2020. We hope that relevant countries avoid politicizing cooperation on new energy industry technologies, establish fair, open, and non-discriminatory trade policies, treat domestic and foreign enterprises and products equally, eliminate trade barriers. By eliminating trade barriers, we can better facilitate the deployment of renewable energy both domestically and globally. We also hope that relevant countries refrain from resorting to unilateral measures like carbon border adjustment mechanisms and work with other parties to address issues related to environmental integrity and carbon leakage under the carbon market and carbon pricing multilateral mechanism in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, promoting fair trade, technological innovation, and sustainable development.
As time is limited, I'll conclude here for now. I look forward to in-depth discussions on these issues with all the ambassadors shortly. My French counterpart and I will jointly host a high-level dialogue among the Friends of the Paris Agreement in Beijing next week. We will extend invitations to our old friends who have made substantial contributions to the Paris Agreement. The purpose of this gathering is to explore ways to bolster its implementation and provide insights for the success of COP 28. The President of COP 28 and the Executive Secretary of the Climate Convention will be in attendance, and a representative from the United Nations Secretary-General's office will also participate. I'll bring your valuable opinions and suggestions to the meeting and discuss them with the Friends of the Paris Agreement. My hope is to harness the collective wisdom of all parties involved and work together to promote a successful COP 28, advance international cooperation on climate change, and do it for the betterment of all humanity, future generations, and our shared home, the Earth. Thank you.
For more photos at the 9th China and Globalization Forum held by CCG earlier today, click here