Hollande heads to China ahead of key climate talks

French President Francois Hollande (above) heads to China to try  to secure a strong joint statement from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, ahead of a climate change conference in Paris.
French President Francois Hollande (above) heads to China to try to secure a strong joint statement from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, ahead of a climate change conference in Paris. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • French President Francois Hollande heads to China today to try and persuade Beijing, a key country in the fight against global warming, to give a decisive push to negotiations ahead of a key climate conference in Paris.

China alone produces about 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it the biggest polluter on the planet and a major player in the fate of the upcoming United Nations climate change conference which begins in the French capital on Nov 30.

The main aim of Mr Hollande's trip is to secure a strong joint statement from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, ahead of the talks in Paris to secure a global climate pact.

The conference, which will be attended by at least 80 world leaders including Mr Xi and United States President Barack Obama, seeks to unite all the world's nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change, with the goal of capping warming at 2 deg C over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Ahead of Mr Hollande's visit, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will chair the Paris summit, and China's climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua have engaged in lengthy discussions over the draft of the joint declaration.

Talks have largely stalled over the mechanism for following up on commitments by the 195 countries attending the conference: France is calling for a "legally binding" mechanism with a review every five years, while China has ruled out any kind of punitive system.

China, which was blamed for scuppering a 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen, has promised its carbon dioxide emissions will peak "by around 2030" in a symbolic announcement in June.

In September, Beijing also committed in a joint declaration with the US to set up a national emissions quota system in 2017.

As the giant of the G-77 group of emerging economies, Beijing is well placed to put pressure on its partners at the conference, particularly India, the world's fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

India has effectively rejected calls to limit its use of heavily polluting coal, saying it is vital to meet the needs of its burgeoning economy and that its growth cannot be limited by environmental conditions.

Delhi has pointed the finger at wealthy developed countries as mostly to blame for global warming.

Travelling with Mr Hollande is a delegation of around 40 business leaders as well as the ministers of foreign affairs, ecology and finance.

The French President's China trip comes hot on the heels of a similar visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who arrived last Thursday, hoping to drum up business.

Several major European Union countries including Germany, France and Britain are wooing China in the hope of winning business and becoming hubs for the growing overseas trade of its yuan currency.

Mr Hollande's first stop will be Chongqing, before he flies to Beijing, where he will be received by Mr Xi at the Great Hall of the People before talks between the two.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2015, with the headline 'Hollande heads to China ahead of key climate talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe