China and India pledge rare climate partnership ahead of global talks in Paris

Author:
Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 5 minutes
17 May 2015

NEW DELHI: Following India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China this week, the world’s two biggest developing countries pledged ambitious bilateral climate action, promising their INDCs “well before” global negotiations in Paris later this year.

In a rare joint statement, the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China call climate change “one of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century, which needs to be addressed through international cooperation in the context of sustainable development.”

To this end China and India – which are the first and third biggest emitters in the world – state their complete support of a robust climate deal in Paris this December: “The Two Sides will work together, and with other Parties, to advance the multilateral negotiations to achieve a comprehensive, balanced, equitable and effective agreement under the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] in 2015, with a view to ensuring the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC. In this context, the Two Sides express their full support for the success of the UN Climate Conference to be held in Paris, France (Paris Conference) this year.”

Agreeing that the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol — the UN's first major global treaty to combat greenhouse gas emissions — are “the most appropriate framework for international cooperation for addressing climate change”, the joint statement also says a global climate deal must be in “full accordance” with the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, which calls for richer countries to provide the necessary finance, technology and capacity building support for developing countries to tackle climate change.

GLOBAL CLIMATE DEAL

Despite the “enormous scale” of the countries’ individual social and economic development challenges that they say must be taken into account, China and India state they are already undertaking ambitious climate actions domestically, and are currently “fully engaged” in preparations for their respective intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) which will be submitted “as early as possible and well before the Paris Conference”.

So-called INDC submissions from countries will provide an early indication of what a climate deal could look like at the COP21 global climate talks in Paris this December.

Last week Canada became the 38th country to submit its INDC, pledging to reduce GHG emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, a target which has been criticized as too weak by many.

More ambitious submissions have come from the EU, with a 40% GHG emissions reduction by 2030 and 80% by 2050, as well as the US, with a 26-28% reduction below 2005 levels by 2025.

But while the world awaits INDCs from China, India and other major economies, Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group warned earlier this month that, “it is already clear from the commitments to date that we are not yet on a trajectory to net zero emissions consistent with available carbon budget and are therefore likely to overshoot the agreed 2 Celsius degrees goal”.

To avoid this, Mark Kenber recommends governments at COP21 in Paris agree a mechanism for raising ambition, “without the need for lengthy rounds of negotiations." He added: "What’s more, given that the Paris agreement will run from 2020, for countries to deliver their 2025-2030 targets, we need to start working now. There’s really a huge amount of work to be done in the next five years, and that’s where the opportunities to shape a better, prosperous future lie.”

The Chinese government is already working hard on its short-term targets, with tough new guidelines released this month which will bolster its goal to slash emissions of CO2 per unit of GDP by 40-45% compared to 2005 by 2020, by enforcing strict punishments on government officials that deviate from the targets.

The new rules are focused on building China’s ‘Ecological Progress’ concept, which aims to curb the country’s record levels of pollution, consumption and dependence on resource imports, during its five-year economic plan. The Climate Group released an Insight Briefing about the unique concept in March.

“The new guideline is a top-level design with clearly set short-term and long-term targets to address China’s environmental and resource constraints, backed up by reshaped governance that holds officials accountable for the ecosystem health and environment quality in their jurisdiction. Failure to follow the guide would impact their political career – and if violation of laws occurs, legal liability will be pursued accordingly under the newly amended environmental law,” explains Changhua Wu, Greater China Director of The Climate Group.

BILATERAL CLIMATE ACTION

But despite strong domestic action, bilateral partnerships between powerful nations provide much-needed clout to global climate efforts. Late last year China and the US revealed a package of joint climate plans that was described by experts as a “game-changer” for the climate, especially given the countries account for 40% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions.

India also joined forces with the US back in January, with US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreeing to team up on combating climate change by ramping up finance and technology for India's ambitious US$95 billion renewable energy push. That week, Modi stated clean and renewable energy is both a “personal and national priority” for India and the US as part of their bilateral economic development plan.

This weekend’s joint statement outlines that China and India will build on two previous agreements by the nations – the Agreement on Cooperation on Addressing Climate Change between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China signed in 2009, and the Memorandum of Understanding on Green Technologies, which was signed in 2010.

Affirming the two economies’ strong faith in the power of the bilateral partnership, the statement ends by promising commitment on: “clean energy technologies, energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transportation including electronic vehicles, low-carbon urbanization and adaptation.”

As Prime Minister Modi's China visit drew to a close, international media reported that trade and economic deals worth US$22 billion were inked, including for renewable energy, which will spur the country's already flourishing markets.

China is a global leader for clean energy, making headlines last month when it was revealed the country added almost the same amount of solar power in the first three months of this year as France’s total solar capacity. A separate report adds further fuel to the fire, pointing out that renewable energy could meet more than 60% of China’s primary energy demand and 85% of its electricity consumption by 2050.

India isn’t far behind, with India and France creeping up to 5th and 7th positions after leaders China and US in Ernst & Young’s Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index last month. In February, India also committed to 266 gigawatts of renewable energy in the next five years and promised to generate 1 million jobs by meeting its target of installing 100 GW of solar energy by 2022.

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By Clare Saxon Ghauri

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