(2015-12-24)Top climate negotiators from China and the United States highlighted bilateral climate cooperation less than two weeks after more than 190 countries agreed on a landmark global agreement in Paris to combat climate change.
The climate announcements by China and the US in 2014 and 2015 showed consensus on sensitive issues and contributed greatly to the Paris deal, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative on climate change, said on Wednesday.
The leaders of both countries have laid a good foundation for cooperation on climate change issues, said Xie, adding that they exchanged views quite frequently during the Paris conference.
“Even during the final stalemate stage, China and the US strengthened communications and followed the requirements of the top leaders of both countries,” Xie said.
In the last a few hours of the Paris conference, the verb “shall” in a key item in the text about developed nations’ mitigation targets was changed to “should”, which caused a delay at the close of the meetings.
Media reported the US delegation wanted to make the revision. The verb “shall” implies a legal obligation and would need ratification from the US Congress, analysts said.
Su Wei, China’s chief climate negotiator, said “shall” is a bit stronger and is more welcome by developing countries, but it’s difficult for some developed countries to accept it.
“Finally, it was properly settled. Countries expressed their understanding and recognized that it was a technical error and made a timely correction, which saved the Paris agreement at the crucial juncture with a satisfactory outcome,” said Su, adding that the Paris deal has helped international community rebuild its confidence in cooperation.
“Even a minor technical issue could break the fragile hard-earned balance in the final stage of the Paris conference, as the atmosphere was so tense,” Su said.
Ensuring a successful Paris climate agreement was among the top priorities in the bilateral announcement, which enabled the “already productive” China-US relationship to rise to “another new level”, Todd Stern, special envoy for climate change at the US State Department, said at a news briefing in Washington on Tuesday.
Stern described China as “really at this point a core partner of ours” and there is “nobody closer that we work with than China”.
Unlike some media speculation, Stern said the High Ambition Coalition that emerged during the Paris conference had nothing to do with trying to isolate China.
China knew about the High Ambition Coalition, but “didn’t mind and didn’t participate”, said Xie.
The coalition, including the European Union, the United States and some small island countries, called for a strong Paris deal that recognized a temperature change goal of less than 1.5 C, five year updates and high transparency.
“These claims put no pressure on China. We are open to the issues,” Xie said.
“But if these goals become reality, many countries, even some of those included in the coalition, won’t be able to fulfill them, so it’s purely a show.”
The agreement said the long-term goal is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 C and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
“An expression by the UN should be a reasonable one, not a hasty one, and the final expression is a flexible deal with compromise,” Xie said.