On 29 June, the EU-China Summit will take place in Brussels. Climate change is going to feature on the agenda as part of EU’s climate diplomacy offensive for a successful COP21 in Paris. In fact, an EU-China joint climate change deal is to be expected, which will agree on a common approach towards a successful outcome in Paris. So far this deal is likely to include further cooperation on carbon markets, low carbon urbanisation and carbon capture and storage (CCS), as well as emissions from aviation and a long-term goal. It is also very likely that China will announce its iNDC (intended nationally determined contribution) at the Summit, which will be a gesture of goodwill towards the EU from China.
Deepening EU-China engagement and cooperation on climate change is a litmus test of Europe’s position in the world. Climate change is one area where the EU can confidently still claim leadership of, despite the impact of the financial crisis. The EU can be more proactive and confident in engaging China by emphasising and sharing the narrative of common interest and opportunities on climate change and resource governance. And given the relationship between the EU and China is strongly anchored on economic and trade ties, it makes sense that the EU and China should deepen their economic integration and reform through green growth.
Going forward, EU-China cooperation on climate change needs to be closely tied to their real economies. The synergies between their respective internal reform agendas, both of which put a strong emphasis on energy and financial sectors, provide a fertile ground for strategic cooperation. The EU needs to focus the EU-China relationship with an agreement to concentrate collaboration on key existing partnerships i.e. 'bigger on big things and smaller on small things'. China should define areas in which partnership with the EU can help to bolster and accelerate its domestic economic and market reforms.
A positive agenda for EU-China engagement in 2015, including the EU-China Summit and EU-China High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue (HLETD) would:
- Focus the EU–China relationship with an agreement to concentrate collaboration on key existing partnerships, for example on energy security where the EU and China can form a “consumer alliance” that emphasises more cooperation on renewable energy as well as reducing energy demand, which will greatly enhance energy security in both regions and globally.
- Deepen EU–China economic integration and reform through green growth – this cooperation could involve continued market integration, policy coordination and consultation, and stronger practical cooperation on regulation and technology development.
- Work towards a strong climate change regime by way of an agreement on core elements for the climate change agreement in Paris in 2015 and the establishment of an EU–China working group on climate change governance.
Ahead of the EU-China Summit, E3G and Chatham House have released a report “Enhancing Engagement between China and the EU on Resource Governance and Low-Carbon Development”. The report highlights the need for the EU and China to further strengthen cooperation on climate change and provides suggestions on a few critical areas where concrete actions can be taken. Key suggestions from the report include prioritising "early harvest" of liberalisation in green sectors in light of the on-going negotiation of EU-China Investment Agreement; stronger mechanisms for "early warning" of possible EU-China trade disputes for green sectors; and closer cooperation on energy, i.e. by creating a ‘consumer alliance’ to elevate the bilateral relationship to a more strategic level.
On 23 June, E3G organised a small roundtable event to launch the report at E3G’s Brussels office, with attendance from representatives from European institutions. Discussions focused on how the EU-China Summit could set the foundation for attaining the EU-China 2020 vision on green growth. Suggestions from the report were well received and there was a consensus that the EU needs to re-think its approach to EU-China bilateral relationship, which should reflect and strengthen the narrative of common interest and opportunities on climate change and resource governance.