Xie Zhenhua on China’s role in climate global governance

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China has constructively participated in and led global climate governance in the past decade and achieved some important results, said Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change, at an academic event titled “China’s Decade of Addressing Climate Change” celebrating the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the National Climate Strategy Center in Beijing on Sept 22.

Xie considers the Paris Agreement to be a landmark achievement as it made arrangements for strengthening post-2020 climate action and cooperation. First, because it was the most inclusive in accommodating the core concerns of all parties. Second, adhering to the principles of the Convention, it took into account various elements such as mitigation, adaptation, capital, technology, capacity building, and transparency, reflecting “common but differentiated responsibilities”. Third, it reached an agreement on the long-term goal of less than 2 degrees and striving for 1.5 degrees, demonstrating the trend of a greener world and low-carbon development.

It also established a “bottom-up” independent decision-making contribution model and engaged all parties to take action in light of national conditions. In addition, the agreement ensured the sustainability of implementation by setting up a five-year inventory for continuous improvement. Last but not least, it established a mechanism that matches action and support to help developing countries to continuously improve their capabilities.

In the past decade, Xie said, the multilateral process has prepared for and contributed to the signing and implementation of the Paris Agreement, and a series of positive results have been achieved. Past efforts like the Durban Platform and the Warsaw Outcomes in 2013 paved the way to reach an agreement in Paris as scheduled.

Following Paris, further efforts like the 2021 Glasgow Climate Agreement have sent positive signals of adhering to multilateralism, implementing the Paris Agreement, and accelerating the low-carbon transformation and innovation.

Xie pointed out that in the multilateral process, focusing on the implementation of their respective goals and the promotion of bilateral relations between China and the United States, China-US climate change dialogue and cooperation have continued to achieve results.

Since the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Cancún in Mexico, China and the US have gradually formed an atmosphere of cooperation, replacing open confrontation and mutual accusations with talking over differences and respecting each other’s core concerns, in order to find solutions acceptable to both sides and jointly advance the multilateral process.

From 2013 to 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping and then US President Barack Obama reached a political consensus on strengthening dialogue and cooperation in the field of climate change, and issued three joint statements and a cooperation document, a historic and important contribution for the signing and entering into force of the Paris Agreement. The two sides also established the China-US Climate Change Working Group to carry out policy dialogue and practical cooperation in nine areas.

From 2017 to 2020, even after President Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, the negotiating teams of China and the US still maintained communication, and the dialogue and cooperation between local governments, businesses and think tanks of the two countries continued to advance. Since 2021, the two sides have opened up new channels of communication on climate change, issued a joint statement on addressing the climate crisis and a Joint Declaration on Enhanced Climate Action, and reached agreement on the working outline of the China-US Working Group on Enhanced Climate Action in the 2020s.

China-EU cooperation on climate change has also achieved positive results, Xie pointed out. In 2015, the leaders of China and the EU both issued joint statements, and the China-France statement in particular contributed to the Paris Agreement, especially the sustainability of the implementation of the agreement. In 2017, when the United States announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and suspended the Energy and Climate Forum of Major Economies, China, the EU and Canada jointly initiated and held the Ministerial Conference on Climate Action of Major Countries, which played a positive role in promoting exchanges and cooperation.

Since 2021, leaders of China, France and Germany have held numerous video meetings, and Chinese and EU leaders have held three high-level dialogues on climate and environmental issues, as well as issuing a joint communiqué to promote practical cooperation and multilateral processes.

Xie also emphasized that South-South cooperation on climate change has achieved positive results, with over 1.2 billion yuan ($166.9 million) spent, 43 climate change cooperation documents signed with 38 developing countries, and around 2,000 officials and technicians trained for more than 120 developing countries.

“We recently had a face-to-face meeting with ambassadors from small island states of the South Pacific to China to exchange candid and in-depth views on the outcomes of the Sharm el-Sheikh Conference,” he said.