The European Union and China are questioning each other’s commitment to fighting climate change, following the failure of the Group of 20 (G20) climate talks last week.
At the end of last week’s negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, the 20 governments failed to agree on a joint statement on climate change. Diplomatic sources said that some countries, including China, were not satisfied with the language that had already been agreed upon and enshrined in previous agreements.
The EU’s top climate change official on Monday accused the “biggest emitter on the planet” – referring to China – of trying to roll back the Glasgow Climate Pact, the result of two weeks of negotiations at the UN in November.
“Some of the biggest players on the planet are trying to roll back what was agreed in Glasgow,” Frans Timmermans told a meeting in Rotterdam on climate adaptation in Africa.
“And some of them, even the biggest emitter on this planet, try to hide behind developing countries using arguments that I think, at some point, will no longer be viable,” said Timmermans, who is executive vice president of the European Commission.
China is responsible for about 30% of annual emissions, making it the world’s largest emitter today, with the United States second and the EU third. However, the United States is the largest emitter historically.
China’s foreign ministry rejected the accusation, saying Beijing demanded a “precise” interpretation of previous climate agreements.
The 2015 Paris Agreement, for example, committed rich countries – whose emissions are largely responsible for global warming – to cut carbon dioxide emissions faster, while supporting developing countries to continue his example. Under the Paris agreement, China is defined as a developing country.
“As a developing country, China has always supported a large number of developing countries and firmly safeguarded their common interests,” a Chinese ministry spokesman said.
The failure of rich nations to deliver promised climate funds has increased tensions in global climate negotiations. According to OECD data, the European Union is the largest provider of climate finance.
China has pledged to reach an emissions cap by 2030, a goal that could see its emissions rise in the short term as new coal plants open. Beijing has resisted calls from Europe to revise this target and cut emissions faster.
The Foreign Ministry said China’s low-carbon transition remains “steady,” noting that European countries are burning more coal as they race to replace Russian gas.
“The low-carbon and green process is now encountering obstacles,” the ministry said, referring to Europe’s use of coal.
European policymakers have said that the increase in coal consumption is a temporary measure and that it will not frustrate climate goals. The EU has set by law its goal of reducing net emissions by 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.