EU, China step up efforts to combat climate change

BRUSSELS • Europe and China are stepping up their coordination in the battle against global warming, after the US decided to withdraw from a landmark Paris agreement to cut greenhouse gases, according to Mr Frans Timmermans, the European Commission's first vice-president.

The 28-nation European Union will press ahead with efforts to protect the environment by shifting to a low-carbon economy and reducing dependency on fossil fuels, Mr Timmermans said in an interview in Brussels yesterday.

The EU accounts for about 12 per cent of global emissions and China for around 20 per cent.

"The Chinese are faced with such a challenge that you can see the sense of urgency prevailing there more and more, and the willingness to cooperate with us is getting stronger and stronger," Mr Timmermans said.

"People are suffocating in the cities in parts of China. They know they need to do something urgently about this. And in some areas they're moving at incredible speed."

To meet its carbon-reduction targets, set at 20 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2030, the EU has moved to sustainable energy sources and established the world's biggest carbon market.

With China intensifying its fight against air pollution and the EU helping the Chinese government to design a cap-and-trade programme, investors are awaiting political signals about a future link between the two sides and closer cooperation on clean energy technologies.

SENSE OF URGENCY

The Chinese are faced with such a challenge that you can see the sense of urgency prevailing there more and more, and the willingness to cooperate with us is getting stronger and stronger.

MR FRANS TIMMERMANS, first vice-president of the European Commission.

After a succession of mixed messages on Washington's stance on climate change, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday that the Trump administration was seeking "ways in which we can work with partners in the Paris climate accord".

"We want to be productive, we want to be helpful," Mr Tillerson said on the CBS programme "Face the Nation".

His comments did not amount to a reversal of President Donald Trump's widely criticised decision in June to withdraw from the landmark 2015 pact, signed by nearly 200 countries.

However, Mr Tillerson did appear to signal a softening from Mr Trump's earlier characterisation of the Paris deal as a "draconian" pact that impinged on American sovereignty and unfairly favoured countries like China and India over the United States.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'EU, China step up efforts to combat climate change'. Print Edition | Subscribe