China points to offer of climate aid to boost Taiwan claims

China's chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua during a news conference at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt on Nov 10. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHARM EL-SHEIKH - China has offered Taiwan assistance to combat climate change, Beijing’s top envoy to the COP27 summit in Egypt said, using environmental policy to bolster its claim over the island.

“Within the policy of One China, we have provided assistance to Taiwan to implement climate policies,” Mr Xie Zhenhua said in a speech on Tuesday.

Mr Xie was speaking in the absence of China’s president, Mr Xi Jinping.

In the past, China has largely avoided any mention of Taiwan at such events and vigorously opposed Taipei’s attempts to participate in international forums, including the COP summits.

By speaking on behalf of Taiwan at COP27, Mr Xie took a new approach to Beijing’s claim of jurisdiction. 

“This shows how China sees the interlinkages between climate and geopolitics,” Ms Belinda Schäpe, a climate diplomacy researcher at think tank E3G, wrote on Twitter.

“National security now part of every aspect - including global climate action!”

Mr Xie wasn’t specific about what assistance China had offered. Beijing cut off all direct communication with Taiwan’s government in 2016 after the election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who holds that the island is a de facto independent nation.

China views Taiwan as a part of its territory and regularly threatens to gain control over it through military means. 

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry called Mr Xie’s comment a “blatant lie”, saying the island needs no help from China.

“The effectiveness of Taiwan’s environmental protection policies is obvious to all countries and has nothing to do with China,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said in a statement on Thursday.

“Taiwan’s goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 far exceeds China’s commitments on climate change.” 

The rest of Mr Xie’s speech largely covered well-trod ground for China in its public statements.

“No matter how the external environment changes, no matter how many challenges it faces, China’s determination and stance to firmly implement the vision of carbon peaking and carbon neutrality and actively participate in global climate governance will not retreat,” he said.  BLOOMBERG

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