On the road from Copenhagen to Cancun, climate negotiators from around the world will meet in Tianjin, China, from October 4th to October 9th for a last round of negotiations prior to the next COP in Mexico at the end of November.
ClimatEquity asks Chinese climate expert Yu Jie, who has participated in UNFCCC negotiations and COPs since 2004, about her expectations for Tianjin and Cancun.
CLIMATEQUITY: What do you expect will happen during the UNFCCC talks in Tianjin? Will we see any progress? Will climate finance be one area where there might be some high expectation for Tianjin and Cancun? What is the Chinese position on climate financing resources?
YU JIE: At the last session in August in Bonn, the parties in the working group on long term cooperative action (AWG LCA) finally agreed on the new chair’s text to work on. Currently, this text with 70 pages will have to be cut down to more manageable size, although it will be an extremely though job to remove hundreds of brackets, particularly when the thread to connect these pieces is missing. This missing thread is strong political will which in reality, seems to have been sapped by the domestic legislative process in the United States. Therefore, I agree with the view that climate finance could be an area where a substantial result in Cancun seems possible. Tianjin will then be one of the stops to build consensus towards Cancun.
The Chinese government holds the same position as the G77 on finance, but in contrast to many developing countries, it is pretty neutral on issues related to finance such as the debate who should govern a Global Green Fund. On providing resources for financing, China thinks they should come from a global carbon tax, rather than from carbon market proceeds.
CLIMATEQUITY: How are the UNFCCC talks in Tianjin perceived by the Chinese media and public?
YU JIE: The media and NGOs in China are excited about it – after all, it is the first climate negotiation session which China hosts. They think it will be interesting to watch how China performs in the meeting, will they assume a low or high profile? And will China try to explain what happened in Copenhagen or it is ready to move forward?
CLIMATEQUITY: What are the expectations of the Chinese government for Cancun? What does China have to offer for the negotiations? And how does China view other major players such as the US, the EU and other BASIC countries?
YU JIE: I think China has a realistic expectation for Cancun. On the one hand, people know it is a transition COP, therefore, it should focus on doing what it can, is a commonly heard attitude. On the other hand, finance is most likely the issue where most attention will be focused on, as we were already half-way toward an agreement in Copenhagen.
The United States will be the major trigger for the next round of vital negotiations, the Chinese government would think. However, when there is no clear calendar for US domestic legislation, the timing is difficult to foresee. Besides, the United States US is currently putting pressure on China for an evaluation of the RMB, its currency, thus the diplomatic relationship between the two countries is presently pretty intense and not cordial. For the Chinese government, a smooth passing of this currency crisis is the top priority at the moment.
Regarding its expectation about the EU, China might look to the United States generally for further mitigation commitments. However, they will look to the EU as the major power to drive the climate finance negotiations in order to keep the temperature of the overall talks warm and friendly, which is important.
With respect to its fellow BASIC countries, for the Chinese government making sure that they are being united in action is the key. This is the goal of routine BASIC meetings.
CLIMATEQUITY: What are the strategies of the Chinese civil society organisations towards Cancun? Are Chinese civil society well positioned enough and able to push for transparency and accountability of climate funding that might come to China?
YU JIE: Since Copenhagen, MRV (measurable, reportable and verifiable ) has become the center of attention for China’s next negotiation commitment. It will be valuable for Chinese civil society to find out more about the status and improvement potential of China’s system of energy statistics in order to form its own position on the related future institution, policy and implementation. China, in a few months, will also finish its 11th 5-year-plan. This plan is a highly relevant tool for the country to review its situation and analyze the lessons learned. It will help China to direct its climate and energy policy in an effective manner in the long run.
In the past, climate action programs in China under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) were governed by a Chinese government office under its Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Environment. It is unlikely for Chinese civil society to get access to the project management information. Any future climate funding reaching China is likely to be governed in a similar way. The question whether Chinese civil society is able to participate depends on the design of the funding management scheme. If international civil society could push for an explicit NGO role in the related UN decision-making process, Chinese civil society will be prepared to help improve the transparency and accountability of climate funding disbursements in China in the future.
Dr. Yu is currently an independent climate policy analyst based in China. She headed The Climate Group’s Policy and Research Program in China and worked as Vice President, Policy, for Climate Change Capital, a low carbon banking group. She also served as a program manager for the Heinrich Boell Foundation, leading its climate and environment funding projects in China and from 2004-2006, as Policy Advisor for Greenpeace China.
Photo: Yu Jie