Global Deal Has to Be Legally Binding for All Countries: EU Climate Chief

Bloomberg BNA — During a visit to China to see firsthand how the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases plans to reduce emissions, European Union Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard said all countries must do their part to fight climate change and that whatever commitments they make should be “legally binding.”

Hedegaard spoke during a news conference in Beijing, responding to a proposal in a recent United Nations report that would make emission-reduction commitments binding for developed nations but voluntary for developing ones.

“There is no doubt that we need some kind of differentiation [about] who does what,” Hedegaard said. “It will not be the same for different countries. But when we have identified this differentiation, I see no reason why it should not be legally binding. … We see no reason why we should have this old firewall.”

Hedegaard is visiting China from April 23 to April 26 to hold discussions with Chinese counterparts and tour emissions-reduction projects in Shanghai and Zhenjiang in Jiangsu province. She repeated several times during her trip that all countries must find ways to help solve climate change and reduce emissions.

“If you only ask a handful of developed countries … to solve the climate change problem, it will never be solved,” Hedegaard told an audience at Beijing's Tsinghua University on April 23. “Instead of discussing who takes which burden, it is much more productive to say, ‘Who will be part of this innovation?’ ”

Without China, ‘No Chance'

Since 1990, carbon dioxide emissions in China have grown by 290 percent, and since 2005 by about 70 percent, Hedegaard told the Tsinghua audience.

“China today is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse, accounting for more than one-fourth of all the global emissions,” she said. “Without strong action from China, the world stands no chance of solving the climate challenge.”

Hedegaard praised China's efforts to establish a carbon trading system through several pilot programs and said the EU had put approximately 5 million euros (about US$6.9 million) into working at the technical level with Chinese authorities to assist them in the construction of emissions trading schemes.

On April 2, Hubei province became the sixth of seven carbon trading pilots in China to start initial trading of CO2 emissions.

Pilot projects have also started in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenzhen and southern Guangdong province. The seventh pilot is expected to launch in Chongqing.

“We think it is fantastic that China has now joined the family of countries that are pricing carbon,” Hedegaard said April 24.

Nationwide Trading Program

China could launch a nationwide CO2 trading program before 2020, although it is not known which pilot program could emerge as the model, Johnny Jiang of the Beijing offices of UK-based Carbon Trading Capital told Bloomberg BNA on April 2.

China is seeking to cut 2005 level emissions per unit of economic output by at least 40 percent by 2020. In March, China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued a notice requiring the provinces to increase record-gathering on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The European Union has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, and is targeting a 40 percent reduction by 2030, Hedegaard said.

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