A Sting Exclusive: “There can be no global deal on emissions without China and the USA”, Conservative MEP Ian Duncan stresses from Brussels

Ian Duncan MEP)__

Ian Duncan is conservative Member of European Parliament for Scotland

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Ian Duncan, Conservative MEP for Scotland.

World leaders have arrived in Paris today for the opening of the UNFCCC COP21 conference on climate change.  Over the next two weeks politicians, businesses and civil society will gather in the French capital in the hopes of hammering out a global deal to limit emissions and keep the earth’s temperature from rising above two degrees centigrade. The last time such a deal was on the table was in 2009 in Copenhagen, however, the Copenhagen conference famously failed.  Now, six years on, there is growing pressure on world leaders to come to an agreement.

There is little doubting that President Hollande is facing challenges, not least coping with the aftermath of the tragic events in Paris. Mr Hollande has shown leadership and will need to do so again if the most challenging negotiations in two decade are to be a success. Negotiators remember Copenhagen with a shudder. There, the discussions ended in abject failure when last minute talks between China and the US collapsed. It was a bitter Christmas, the chill of which is only now thawing.

China has been much in the thoughts of President Hollande. Earlier this month he hosted Chinese Premier Xi Jingping in Paris and managed to secure an important concession: China will allow its Climate Change commitments to be measured and reviewed every five years. It has also declared that it will aim to improve its carbon reduction ambitions in the future. A modest success, perhaps, but worth remembering that the Copenhagen talks fell apart because China was unwilling to concede the basic reality of climate change. Très bien fait, M. Hollande!

Measuring China’s commitments will be vital.  Just how vital was demonstrated recently by a New York Times expose revealing that China’s coal emissions were in fact 17% higher than previously reported.  To put it in context, that discrepancy is equivalent to all of Germany’s annual emissions from every type of fossil fuel combined. Paris negotiators must now spend considerable time recalibrating the math.  Setting aside the reasons for the ‘error’, one thing is clear – you can’t fib your way to an end of global warming.

As Hollande does his diplomatic dance, the UN’s chief negotiator Christiana Figueres remains at the coal face. She addressed the European Parliament’s Environment Committee in September where I lead for my party on climatic matters. An eternal optimist (you’d have to be) she is painfully aware that on the balance of probabilities, the two degree target will not be met.  When the UN published its synthesis document tallying the climate reduction contributions of the 140 nations, the findings were stark: global emissions will continue to rise by 22 Gigatonnes by 2030, delivering at best a 3oC rise in global temperature.

The painful lesson from Copenhagen is that there can be no global deal on emissions without China and the USA.  Combined, they emit each year 40% of the world’s CO2. The next biggest emitter is the EU, whose combined emissions represent only 10% of the global total. China and the US are not only the biggest emitters, but with a combined GDP of $28 trillion, they also have the cash to do something about the consequences of climate change.  So are they doing enough?

China has agreed to peak its emissions in 2030 and ensure that non-fossil fuels represent at least a fifth of primary energy consumption. China has also committed to reduce the ‘carbon intensity’ of its industries (the amount of carbon consumed in the creation of goods and services) and to double the acreage of its forests from 124 to 247 million acres – the equivalent of foresting the entire UK twice over.

For the first time – and this is worth trumpeting – China has conceded that economic growth does not depend upon emission growth. You don’t need to burn to grow. This is a big realisation for a country which relies upon coal for nearly three-quarters of its primary energy production. Remember, half the world’s coal is burned in China.  Last year Chinese coal production fell by 3%. This might not sound like much, but it is the first time in recent history that it has declined at all.

Much of China’s slowdown in production and consumption of coal is the result of efficiency savings and fuel switching. As coal use drops gently, hydro power for example is growing at 16% a year, whilst China builds a nuclear power plant every month (an activity that will continue for the next two decades).

As for the USA, President Obama has a ‘Clean Power Plan’ to reduce emissions by almost a third by 2025 (against a 2005 baseline). Like China, these emissions emanate primarily from its power sector. The reduction targets are set on a state-by-state basis. Unlike China, the US has an ambitious long-term goal of reducing emissions by 83% by 2050.

However, it is one thing to have an ambition and another to realise it.  The USA’s commitment to binding targets has always been linked to political complexion of its Congress. Under its constitution US law makers must approve any international treaty before it comes into force. The admission this from Secretary of State John Kerry that the US will not seek a legally binding deal in Paris has troubled the EU and laid bare the precarious nature of America’s commitment to tackling Climate Change.

One year ago in Lima the world still believed that it may just, just, be on track to arresting global warming at 2oC. Today, with China’s errant reporting methods and America’s reluctance to concede binding emission targets that certainty is wavering.  For M. Hollande, who has steadily built expectations ahead of the Paris COP21 summit, it may yet prove to be a long, cold winter.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Syria’s groundbreaking constitutional talks: ‘a clear success of mediation’ says Guterres in Turkey

10 million Yemenis ‘one step away from famine’, UN food relief agency calls for ‘unhindered access’ to frontline regions

“911, What’s your emergency?”

Nearly a third of the globe is now on Facebook – chart of the day

Climate change is forcing 20 million people a year from their homes, Oxfam says

4 ways Africa can prepare its youth for the digital economy

Germany objects to EU Commission’s plan for a Eurozone bank deposits insurance scheme but Berlin could go along

Alcohol abuse kills three million people a year, most of them men – WHO report

2013, a Political Odyssey: What future for Italy?

This is why mental health should be a political priority

Commission welcomes European Parliament adoption of EU4Health programme

Commission welcomes agreement on the modernisation of EU export controls

7 ways to break the fast fashion habit – and save the planet

ECB again to subsidize euro area banks with more than one trillion euro

Thomas Cook bankruptcy: Better consumer and employee protection needed

MWC 2016 LIVE: Ingenu steps up efforts to build LPWA networks across the globe

Greener tourism: Greater collaboration needed to tackle rising emissions

How digital entrepreneurs will help shape the world after the COVID-19 pandemic

MEPs back plans to promote water reuse for agricultural irrigation

The ECB proposes a swift solution for SMEs’ financing

Working fewer hours makes you more efficient. Here’s the proof

COVID-19: A coordinated EU health strategy needed, say MEPs

‘BioSolar Leaves’ are better at cleaning the air than trees, say the technology’s developers

EU leaders agree to delay Brexit until 31 October

Yemen war ‘a test of our humanity’, and we’re ‘badly failing’ warns UN Children’s Fund chief

German Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

The refugee crisis seen through the eyes of a young doctor from Turkey

EU, Latin America and the Caribbean: Partnering for prosperity, democracy, resilience and global governance

Collective action to enable sustainable growth will be critical to end tropical deforestation

Adoption of new rules to better protect children caught in cross-border parental disputes

Arrest of three Libyans wanted for grave crimes ‘would send strong and necessary message’ to victims, urges top Prosecutor

State aid: Commission approves around €36 million Romanian rescue aid to state-owned flag carrier TAROM

COVID-19: from the chaos of the pandemic to the difficulties in vaccination

Ecofin: ‘The Friday battle’ for the banking union

Haiti cholera outbreak ‘stopped in its tracks’

The UK option: An overarching alternative for the whole Brexit options

Security Council gravely concerned by Ebola outbreak in DR Congo, demands immediate end to violence hampering response

Here’s how to achieve growth in the Middle East and North Africa

Civil society groups matter for Cambodia’s sustainable development: UN expert

European Institute of Innovation and Technology: Commission welcomes political agreement on strategy for 2021-2027

The von der Leyen Commission: for a Union that strives for more

Number of MEPs to be reduced after EU elections in 2019

The challenge of palliative care in universal health coverage

The world needs carbon-neutral flying. Here’s how to bring it one step closer

Facts, not fear, will stop COVID-19 – so how should we talk about it?

Concorde is a reminder that the only way for innovation is up

Parlamentarians to “break up” with reality in the Google antitrust case

Implementation of tax transparency initiative delivering concrete and impressive results

The world has made spectacular progress in every measure of well-being. So why does almost no one know about it?

EU guidance on the handling of visa applications from residents of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions

MEPs to prioritise environment and climate action in next long-term budget

GDP growth slows in most G20 economies in third quarter of 2019

This is why retail is such a sore point in India-US trade relations

Khashoggi murder trials must public and meet international standards, UN expert urges

UN chief seeking ‘renewed commitment’ to global rules and values, as world leaders head to New York

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

A reality check on inclusive innovation

Austerity lovers to put a break on Renzi’s growth vision for Europe? the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

This man is turning cities into giant sponges to save lives

4 key trends on how COVID has impacted women in business

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s