The Paris Climate Change Conference - China takes a leading role

By Tim Collard
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 29, 2015
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But the U.S./China bilateral agreement of November 2014 was a major step towards resolving this impasse. For the first time China, in agreement with the major Western producer of emissions, committed herself to aiming for a peak of absolute emissions. There is no further suggestion that developing nations cannot be expected to conform to international agreements on emissions which might damage their development prospects. This will, it is hoped, be a major factor in encouraging a more cooperative attitude in both the developed and the developing world, as well as setting an example to other developing nations of how to deal with domestic pollution problems, which have become quite severe in China in recent years. It is sometimes difficult for people to focus on projections for global warming 50 or 100 years into the future; it is impossible for them to fail to notice serious smog problems in their immediate environment.

There have been signs that China has been aiming to take a leadership role in the developing world in advance of the Paris conference. At the end of October China hosted the 21st BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) ministerial meeting on climate change, which has met regularly since 2009 to exchange views and evolve a coordinated approach on the issue. On this occasion Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli made it clear that China hopes to coordinate a common approach to the Paris Conference by the leading countries of the developing world. China has also announced the setting up of a RMB20 billion fund for "South-South" cooperation on climate change for the assistance of other developing countries.

The Paris summit will be the culmination of a remarkable period of diplomacy for the Chinese president. November saw the G20 summit at Antalya, which took place at a critical juncture following the Islamic State attacks on Paris, followed by the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Manila. China will be following up by hosting the 2016 G20 meeting in Hangzhou. This ongoing top-level diplomatic initiative clearly indicates a willingness by China to take the lead in the affairs of developing world, not in terms of a bid for hegemony but in terms of a willingness to take responsibility and to give a lead.

This is very encouraging for the future of international diplomacy on issues which ought to be of common interest. Many countries have attended previous climate change conferences with no real intention to reach agreement, including both developed and developing nations. This time it looks as though there is a good chance that the nations involved will be negotiating in good faith and not purely defensively, and if this does prove to be the case the agreements reached a year ago between the Chinese and U.S. Presidents will have been primarily responsible for this most welcome development.

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