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Germany should follow China's lead for G20 presidency

By Fu Jing in Brussels ( Updated: 2016-08-30 17:38

China's new contribution in helping improve global sustainable infrastructure, green financing and international development during its G20 presidency are impressive and should be followed by Germany when it takes the reins next year, according to a prominent German think-tank expert.

While the leaders are busy preparing to the 11th gathering in Hangzhou, provincial capital of Zhejiang on 4-5 September, German Development Institute Director Dirk Messner said China has brought new dimensions to the G20 Leaders Summit platform which has "traditionally" focused on global growth and economic governance reform since the first meeting was held in Washington at the height of the financial crisis in late 2008.

Germany should follow China's lead for G20 presidency

German Development Institute Director Dirk Messner

"Looking at China's presidency agenda, there are several things which are very important from Germany's perspectives and we think-tanks could work as bridges to connect," Messner, who started to advise the Chinese government about ten years ago on sustainable development, said during an interview in his office in Bonn recently.

Highly praising on China's leadership in the current G20 presidency, he believes that China and Germany could use the 2016-17 presidency to help speed up the changes needed to restructure global economy towards a more sustainable dimension.

For Messner, the first thing sustainable infrastructure. He says global economy is still in trouble and to improve the growth, nearly all the countries are still focusing on infrastructure investment, which is crucial.

He said in the next twenty years, there will be the biggest infrastructural investments ever for the world and most of them are in urban areas.

"Putting the investment trends into the context of climate agreement and the 2030 global sustainability development goals of the United Nations, to achieve green and sustainable infrastructure is very important, which would bring about a great part of dynamics of global economy," said Messner.

In this area, Messner said China is leading the way because it will be investing a lot at home and along points in the Belt and Road initiative routes while European countries and the US are renewing their urban and energy infrastructures.

He said pushing the infrastructure projects into new, sustainability and carbon-free development is very important and China has already done a lot in the recent years.

In this regard, Messner, an expert on the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) said the council has prepared a policy report to central government last November to prepare China's G20 presidency.

Messner said green financing should also top the G20 summit agenda. He said China interestingly ties green dimensions with financial market reform which is about reducing speculation, improving transparency and stabilizing the market.

Messner said in 2015, the United Nations achieved two important agreements, namely the Paris climate change deal and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), amid tremendous new challenges.

"We have achieved the two agreements and the question is that how we transmit their implications to the future," he said. "This would be historic."

Messner said China is the first presidency of G20 since the Paris climate summit and the UN's 2030 agenda was approved in New York last year.

"My understanding is that China is currently linking the traditional agenda of G20 of financial market and growth into Paris and 2030 agenda," he said. "This is the third thing which I think could be very important at the upcoming G20 summit and Germany could follow up."

In terms of transforming development patterns, Messner said China is at a crossroads. Many new sustainable models, such as de-carbonization and energy efficiency, as well as inclusion, have occurred, and he says there is huge shift of thinking in China, especially in recent years.

He recalled that the task-force of CCICED proposed the concept of "low-carbon economy" to the China's leadership before the Copenhagen climate change summit, but the top leaders responded that such pattern was more important for Europeans, because China's development was based on an energy system heavily depending on burning coal.

"This was what happened only eight years ago but now China has become the world's biggest low carbon investor. That is huge of shift of thinking," he said. "Because, for China's leadership, they believe if they don't link growth and sustainability, that would be disaster nationally with cost officially and economically," he said.

Messner addd "There is a shift. This is serious."

But on the other hand, the zero-emission and low-carbon development is new for everyone and the world is looking at the solutions. "So China and Germany should be the two pioneering countries to push such an agenda at G20 summits," he said.

China has global proposals in the pipeline, adding that the Belt and Road initiative should be the model of new type of global cooperation linking growth and sustainability.

In Europe, the European Union has offered a 315-billion-euro investment scheme, which has also focused on infrastructure. "Both projects are not visible at the G20 platforms and when China and Germany hold presidency, we can argue that we have sustainable growth tools in the pipeline to achieve sustainable growth," he said.

"China and Germany and Europe could drive the discussion. There is a lot of work to communicate together to make these two visible."

In fact, China and European Union have entered into initial agreement to forge synergy of these two investment packages but so far there has not been much progress.

In terms of Sino-EU relations, Messner said the European Union has been riven by internal problems, which has consuming a lot of political resources.

"This is European problem, correctly. Europe should be a strong international actor. Europe has a lot of problems, ranging from Greece to Brexit, and so international power is weak," he said.

Messner said both China and EU have great potential in infrastructural cooperation but they haven't yet made global case for it.

"So the G20 presidencies of China and Germany are a very good opportunity to make it," he said.

He said currently, Europe has a lot of debate on declining social inclusion and the 2030 agenda of United Nations is about green, social and inclusive development, so to construct a social-inclusive market economy should be high on G20 agenda as well when Germany takes reins."

Messner is also concerned about global governance and global leadership. Citing Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference since 2008, who said the world might be in an era of erosion of global governance system, he said it is part of a strong message.

"The G20 is important actor in organizing global governance. So the Hangzhou and next Hamburg summit should make the global players renew their commitment in cooperation, and build up global governance and global leadership," said Messner."So the presidency should look at the consensus which is both important and possible."

Messner said his institute aims to work as the bridge of the two summits of this year and next.

In recent years, think-tanks, as well as businesses and womens' groups, have become closely involved in the G20 process and they formed a group called T20 to formulate suggestions and reports for the governments and presidency countries.

Being a globally influential think tank, Messner's institute and the Kiel Institute for the World Economy have been jointly entrusted with the support of Germany's G20 presidency next year. The two institutes are tasked with chairing and organizing the so-called T20 process.

He said Germany is preparing the priorities for the coming presidency and once this is developed, his institute will submit policy suggestions.

"And of course, we will go beyond national interest and focus on global economy and keep on the continuation of China's presidency," said Messner.

The author is deputy chief of China Daily European Bureau.

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