France urges China and EU to unite to protect Paris climate deal
Beijing must move faster to cut dependence on coal and set a global example, French environment minister says
China and the European Union should set aside differences on trade and strengthen cooperation on climate change to “act as a shield” to protect the landmark Paris climate accord, France’s environment minister said.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, French Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition Nicolas Hulot also urged China to step up its efforts towards a greener economy and take a lead role alongside France to implement the international climate accord reached in the French capital two years ago and now under threat from the US’ withdrawal.
“It is China and the EU that have taken the leadership role on climate issues and they have to continue to play the leadership role in the implementation of the Paris Agreement … And if they coordinate they will be able to cover much larger areas,” he said during a brief trip to Hong Kong on Monday.
Hulot, a well-known French environmental campaigner, was appointed in May by French President Emmanuel Macron to the post overseeing climate and energy policy.
His remarks come amid growing doubts over repeated pledges by Chinese and EU leaders that the Paris climate pact is irreversible despite US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US, the world’s second-largest carbon emitter, out of the deal.
The EU and China failed to agree an official climate statement during a bilateral summit in June over a long-standing trade spat, underlining their tense relationship and casting a shadow over their commitments to fighting global warming together in the absence of the US.
Hulot played down the strains between China and the EU and said: “It is the paradox of climate change because it is a constraint for the world but it is an opportunity as well because we have to act together. We are going to either win together or lose together.
“We will have to make sure questions regarding climate will come first and the differences [on other strategically important issues] should not hinder our efforts to discuss and cooperate on climate change.”
He said China, the world’s top carbon polluter, should do more and move faster to cut its reliance on dirty coal and set a good example for the rest of the world to follow.
“China should continue to do what it’s been doing in terms of energy efficiency, renewable energy, a circular economy. It’s important for China to be even firmer and bolder on climate change together with the EU” in the wake of the US withdrawal, he said.
Hulot, who helped Macron map out an ambitious climate plan, said trade tensions between the EU and China had not affected ties between France and China, and climate was “a definite link” between the two countries despite differences on other economic and security issues.
Strengthening climate cooperation in terms of diplomacy, the economy, finance and technology transfer would be high on Macron’s agenda when he made his first trip to China in January, he said.
France and China held their first senior official dialogue on the low-carbon economy in June and companies from both countries were teaming up on various projects related to energy efficiency, sustainable cities, the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, carbon markets and green financing, Hulot said.
“In a world where we often have differences, I’ve seen since the Paris Agreement the sort of closeness and proximity between France and China and how we helped each other on climate issues and our climate cooperation has reinforced dialogues in other aspects,” he said.
“We will reinforce the coalition with those countries that have the most ambition over climate change, such as China, which is one of our main partners on climate. Nothing will prevent France and China continuing to work even further.”
The minister said the US’ retreat from the Paris deal was not a catastrophe even though it dealt a heavy blow to the global effort on climate change and had caused difficulties for poor countries most vulnerable to global warming.
In response to comments by senior White House officials who said the US might reconsider its stance on the Paris agreement if other countries agreed to accommodate Washington’s concerns over economic costs and energy security, Hulot said the Paris deal was not renegotiable.
He said it was not useful to confront Trump on climate change after Macron had done everything possible to change Trump’s mind but to no avail.
“We should instead work with some US states, such as California, a lot of American cities and a large part of the economic community, which will largely compensate for the withdrawal of Trump,” he said.
France will host a climate summit in December and Hulot said he hoped this would be a big step China and France could work on.