South-South co-op stands out in climate change challenge

By Liu Yi
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Today, December 11, 2015
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South cooperation (SSC) has been widely recognized in the past few years as a new dimension of international cooperation on climate change. The cooperative framework, initiated by developing countries in 1950s, has long been engaged in facilitating mutual support and collaboration in the political, economic, social and technical domains. However, serious environmental deterioration has aroused growing concern among the countries in the South most affected by climate change. In December 2014, the First SSC on Climate Change Forum took place in Lima, Peru, on the margins of the COP20, so signifying the strong volition of developing countries to combat this challenge to humankind.

Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP Deputy Executive Director and Assistant-Secretary-General of the United Nations, is a long-time advocate of the SSC's critical role in tackling climate change. He is also a veteran coordinator among governments and inter-government agencies in this regard. Thiaw attended last mid-November the Beijing Consultative Meeting on South-South Cooperation on Climate Change. More than 150 delegates from developing countries, international organizations, and financial institutes gathered at the event to exchange views on promoting SSC in the fields of energy, climate resilience, smart cities, and big data.

"The world economy, population and power have shifted southward," Thiaw told China Today in an exclusive interview. Nowadays, South-South cooperation goes far beyond the political emblem of a united Third World to real business and trade partnership. "Trade under the SSC framework accounts for almost half of the total among countries of the South," the UNEP deputy chief said, adding that the SSC is no longer supplementary to the traditional North-South cooperation. "Nowadays we are talking as much about South-South cooperation as North-South cooperation."

China leads South-South climate change cooperation

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced last September that the government would make available RMB 20 billion (about US $3.1 billion) for establishment of the "China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund." Its objectives are to help developing countries' transition to green, low-carbon development, and to expand their capacity to access the Green Climate Fund whichconsisting of US $10 billion pledged mostly by developed countriesis the largest of its kind.

The international community hailed this commitment. UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called China "a leader" in advancing South-South cooperation. As the world's biggest developing country, China has always promoted cooperation among Southern countries and over the past 60 years has provided a total of RMB 400 billion in financial aid to 166 nations. It has, moreover, in the last couple of years floated several defining initiatives, including the BRICS Development Bank, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Silk Road Development Fund, which are expected to vitalize cooperation among less developed countries and elevate their status on the world stage.

Against the backdrop of a growingly urgent environmental situation, the Chinese government acknowledges the importance of the environment and its correlation with social and economic development. This is apparent in "ecological progress" occupying a more prominent position in the newly-unveiled 13th Five-year Plan. Ibrahim Thiaw commented that the nation-level planning scheme is very "advanced" by virtue of its inclusion of ecological preservation and sustainable development. "We would like to see full implementation of the plan in China, and the promotion of sustainable development internationally," Thiaw said.

The development mode transition is also reflected in China's cooperation with other developing countries. The Chinese government has given higher priority to climate change issues in the course of South-South cooperation. It contributed each year from 2011 to 2013 through SSC projects US $10 million as special funds to help African countries, the least developed countries, and small island countries combat climate change. In the just-concluded COP21 Paris Conference, President Xi announced more plans for cooperation with other developing countries, including 10 pilot low-carbon industrial parks, 100 mitigation and adaptation programs, and 1,000 personnel training opportunities.

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