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COP17: China to highlight domestic efforts while seeking Kyoto deal in Durban

28 November 2011
COP17: China to highlight domestic efforts while seeking Kyoto deal in Durban

Changhua Wu, The Climate Group’s Greater China Director, takes a look at China’s negotiating position ahead of this week’s COP17 in Durban, South Africa.

For China, success in Durban hinges on two key outcomes: agreement on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and fulfillment of commitments made by developed countries in Copenhagen and Cancun relating to finance, technology and adaptation.   

For its part, China will stress its continuing domestic efforts to restructure its economy through energy efficiency improvements and deployment of non-fossil fuel energy. China has made clear that this action is independent of what happens internationally. Significantly, China has also stated that it will work with international community to consider what further commitments are needed to prevent dangerous climate change on the basis of the latest scientific assessments.

China’s position is well reflected in the declaration from the most recent BASIC Ministers meeting held in Beijing in early November. The positions laid out at this meeting have subsequently been endorsed by other developing countries, including the Small Island and the Africa Country groups.

China is in a more “comfortable” position now with respect to the international negotiating process. This is due in part to the lessons learnt at Copenhagen and in part through demonstration of actions and outcomes domestically, including:

  • Placing green growth and low carbon transformation at the core of the national development strategy, as illustrated by the 12th Five-Year Plan
  • Taking aggressive steps domestically to develop climate change policies, legislation, and also market-based instruments such as sub-national carbon trading pilot programs; 
  • Provinces and cities focusing on green growth in their local development plans, including through pilot projects such as the Five Provinces and Eight Cities ProgramData showing that China is leading global Investment in and deployment of clean energy and other clean technologies, (see China Clean Revolution IV: Financing China’s Low Carbon Growth report)
  • Businesses stepping up efforts to address energy efficiency and clean energy/renewable energy development in line with government policy incentives and support.

China’s action domestically has also become an important trigger or incentive for other major economies, at least from competitiveness and opportunity perspectives. China’s policy direction and incentives to enlarge an expanding domestic market is a well recognized trigger for action by others. 

But internationally, China has to think hard about other countries’ expectations. This includes China’s role and leadership in the international process. The EU, for instance, has expressed a willingness to consider a second Kyoto commitment period but only if a broader treaty involving the US, China and other major economies is also agreed in parallel.  

With a clear understanding of the international situation and recognizing that a final deal won’t be reached in Durban, China is working to strengthen other processes. This includes bilateral dialogues with US, EU, and others, as well as regional platforms such as the BASIC, APEC, BRIC, ASEAN* processes.

It is interesting to observe that even though the international community will struggle at Durban, the Clean Revolution language is already well-embedded in statements from these other leadership platforms and processes.  

*APEC: Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation process; BRIC: Brazil, Russia, India, China group; ASEAN: Association of South East Asian Nations.

Further reading

For those interested in more analysis on the prospects for COP17, the following sources and are recommended.

Damian Ryan, Senior Policy Manager, The Climate Group, will also be writing news and analysis throughout COP17, and providing a more in-depth post-COP Briefing after the events. Keep up to date on our website and by following him on Twitter during COP17. Read Damian's Pre-COP17 Briefing.

Our international policy teams are also commenting on key regional positions in the lead-up to Durban; read about AustraliaChina, Europe, India and the US

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