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Co-operation on regional and global issues

12 - Relations with China on climate change

Grade: B+
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2010/11: B (7/20)

The EU managed to defy low expectations and set the agenda on climate change. At the Durban summit, China agreed to sign up to a legally binding deal before 2020.

Securing the co-operation of China – now the world’s largest carbon emitter – is central for a legally binding global deal on climate change.As a further sign of its commitment to lead by example on climate change, the EU introduced a carbon tax for airlines flying into Europe that will begin in January 2012 (see also components 24 and 38). In response, China threatened repercussions for Airbus in China and has asked its airlines to refuse to pay the tax.

The main event in 2011 was the Durban summit in December. The euro crisis had overshadowed climate change as an issue throughout the year and expectations were low. China launched its white paper before the summit and managed to set the media agenda for a while. But Durban turned out to be a success for the EU. It managed to split the traditional alliance group between China and other developing countries. China and other large emitters agreed to sign up to a legally binding deal that will come into force in 2020 at the latest. For its part, the EU committed to adhering to the Kyoto Protocol for another period and also plans to discuss reducing carbon emissions even faster during the upcoming Danish EU presidency. It leaves Europe less isolated than a couple of years ago.

Although climate groups say progress is still too slow, the EU defied low expectations at Durban. It was impressively ambitious: instead of settling for the implementation of decisions taken in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010, the EU went for more and got it. As Climate Change Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: “The EU’s strategy worked.” One of the next big emerging battlegrounds is innovation, which will determine who leads in green technologies. China has massively subsidies investment in solar panels and wind turbines, which could lead to commercial disputes.

Member States
Leaders:  Denmark - Finland - France - Germany - Italy - Netherlands - Sweden - United Kingdom