Belinda Schäpe, E3G Researcher on China climate diplomacy, was invited to speak at an online discussion on China’s role at COP27, convened by Jutta Paulus and Reinhard Bütikofer, both Members of the European Parliament, and joined by Martin Voss from Germanwatch.
Last year’s COP26 in Glasgow saw China playing an ambivalent role in the negotiations. On the one hand, Beijing supported watering down text on the phasing out of coal power (now “phase down”). On the other hand, to the surprise of many, China and the US signed a joint declaration on “Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s” which is broadly seen as a strong sign of cooperation in support of the Paris Agreement’s objectives.
One year on, the world has changed dramatically. COP27 will happen against a fundamentally different background. The China-US ambition from 2022 has vanished. At the same time, China’s coal production hit record levels in 2022. What does that mean for the climate conference in Egypt? Will there be a rapprochement between China and the US or will opposition harden? Is the recent coal peak in China a signal for disengagement from the global fight against climate change or is it merely a domestically motivated, short-term move? Which new alliances might be fostered to reach the objective of the Egyptian presidency, to work “together for implementation”?
In her intervention, Belinda discussed China’s domestic energy and climate policies (and politics) as well as the importance of engagement on climate change with countries in the Global South. She argued that China’s recent “coal boom” is much more complex than it seems, and that we also need to look at the renewables side of things. Climate action is in China’s own national interest, but China will act on its own terms and its current climate policies do not align with the goals of the Paris Agreement. To engage China on climate change, the EU and the US need to find a more effective approach and that must lead to building stronger international partnerships with countries in the Global South.