EU Leaders Urge China to Adopt Tough Climate-Change Goals
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wants China to join Europe in its emissions target
By Naftali Bendavid
June 29, 2015 4:38 p.m. ET
BRUSSELS—European Union leaders Monday urged China to adopt tough climate-change goals as they and other nations head toward a critical climate conference in Paris at year’s end.
“Our intention is to cut emission by 40% compared with 1990, and I would strongly welcome China to take on its shoulders commitments to have the same ambition” or something similar, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said at an EU-China summit.
He spoke as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stood beside him at a rare joint news conference. “Climate change is an important matter for the entire humankind, and both China and Europe have to bear particular responsibility in that respect,” Mr. Juncker said.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said the world’s goal should be to keep the Earth’s average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, an aspiration reaffirmed earlier this month by the Group of Seven industrialized democracies. At that meeting, the G-7 leaders also agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70% by 2050.
Mr. Li said China would do its part and submit a plan by the end of Tuesday, though in the past Western leaders have seen China as reluctant. “We are willing to work together with the EU side to jointly tackle the challenges posed by climate change,” Mr. Li said. “We are willing and we will make strenuous efforts to address climate change.”
The joint statement issued by the leaders Monday agreed to aim for a “an ambitious and legally binding agreement” at the Paris climate conference. Still, it said, the agreement should reached “in light of different national circumstances.”
Monday’s summit was intended largely to solidify ties between China and Europe, two economic behemoths. China is now the EU’s second-largest trading partner, behind only the U.S., according to the European Commission. China and Europe trade well over 1 billion euros a day.
The two sides agreed to push ahead on a deal to protect foreign investment on their respective territories, though disagreements remain on the details. China and the EU have been negotiating since early 2014 on a broad investment treaty; the EU also wants the deal to provide European companies with less restrictive access to Chinese markets.
In their statement, the two sides said they would “intensify” efforts for an ambitious agreement, including market access provisions, with the goal of producing a joint text by the end of the year. Finalizing the investment deal, the statement said, would show “their willingness to envisage broader ambitions including, once the conditions are right” a free-trade agreement.
The Chinese and EU leaders reiterated their desire to increase their mutual investment in various other ways. The EU expressed interest in China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a network of pipelines, railways and other projects extending into Europe and Africa.
China has proposed taking part in a €315 billion ($354 billion) investment fund set up by the EU. Mr. Juncker said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission’s vice president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, would visit China by the end of September for more detailed discussions on that.
In response to the summit, activist groups urged the EU to make human rights a priority when it comes to China. Amnesty International said the country’s human rights situation has been getting worse.
“The European Union has committed to putting human rights at the forefront of all of its external relations,” said Katharine Derderian, Amnesty’s specialist on EU foreign policy. “If the Union is truly to show true leadership and be a credible actor on human rights, there can be no exceptions, no special cases.”
Mr. Tusk addressed this during the summit. “I expressed our concerns on freedom of expression and association in China, including the situation of the persons belonging to minorities,” he said. “I have encouraged China to resume a meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives.”
On economic issues, China-Europe ties also could be bolstered by the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a new institution that could emerge as an alternative to the World Bank.
The U.S. has expressed reservations about the bank, but several EU countries are taking part as shareholders. The EU has said it looks forward to cooperating with the banks.
But economic relations between China and the EU haven’t always been untroubled. European officials question China’s trade practices, intellectual property protections and human rights record. They periodically accuse Chinese companies of dumping inexpensive goods into the European market.
Still, it is clear leaders on both sides see the EU and China as two large economies that must find ways to work together. “Both China and Europe are participants in the postwar international order,” Mr. Li said. “Both are builders of that order.”
Write to Naftali Bendavid