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Co-operation on regional and global issues

12 - Relations with China on climate change

Grade: B+
Unity 4/5
Resources 5/5
Outcome 6/10
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2010/11: B (7/20)

The EU managed to keep the ball rolling at Doha and enhanced bilateral cooperation with China on energy. But the EU and China clashed over solar panels and carbon taxes.    

The EU aims to secure China’s cooperation on climate change, including on associated green technologies and energy efficiency. In 2012, the EU took initiative with a large energy forum in May that was attended by Li Keqiang, China’s new number two. This fits with China’s ambition to curb energy intensity in its economy and with the EU’s ambition to get China to reduce its carbon footprint. However, in the international negotiations at the summit in Doha, progress was back to snail’s pace after last year’s breakthrough. “Frustration is a renewable source”, said EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard. Still, the EU managed to further chip away at the distinction between developed and developing economies and managed to get China to stick to its previous commitments, including to a global deal by 2015. 

On other areas, there was more friction. Following external pressure from China, Russia, and the US, and internal pressure from Airbus and France, the EU postponed the application of the carbon airfare tax in 2013. China remains strongly opposed to the tax and ordered its airlines not to comply with the EU legislation and continued to cooperate with Russia and the US. The issue is likely to create further tension between the EU and China next year.

Solar panels were also a hot issue after the EU decided in September to pursue an anti-dumping complaint against Chinese solar-panel manufacturers. Although the original complaint was brought by German companies, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the European Commission not to pursue the case, which she feared could prompt a trade war with China. The anti-subsidy case will affect more than $35.8 billion in Chinese exports of solar products. A Chinese business insider called it a “disaster for the Chinese solar industry”, although the industry is surviving on a diet of subsidies from state-owned banks. The Chinese state retaliated with a WTO case against European polysilicon producers that export to China.