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Galvanize into action

China and France can work together to spur world's collective will to enhance and implement climate commitments

By LAURENCE TUBIANA | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-05-24 08:47
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Editor's note: The world has undergone many changes and shocks in recent years. Enhanced dialogue between scholars from China and overseas is needed to build mutual understanding on many problems the world faces. For this purpose, the China Watch Institute of China Daily and the National Institute for Global Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, jointly present this special column: The Global Strategy Dialogue, in which experts from China and abroad will offer insightful views, analysis and fresh perspectives on long-term strategic issues of global importance.


COP 28 in Dubai was a critical milestone for the multilateral framework under the historic Paris Agreement, as countries came together with a decision to "transition away from fossil fuels" — directly addressing the main source of emissions and signaling the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel era. It was a testament to the resilience of the global climate governance system amid a difficult geopolitical context, and of climate objectives being shared, unifying goals.

The next two years are a decisive window for climate action. The science tells us the world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions sharply, by 43 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2035 — to be on track for 1.5 C. Countries are due to submit their updated climate pledges under the Paris Agreement — Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — by 2025. The importance of this next round of climate plans cannot be overstated. Despite the significant momentum of the green transition over the past decade, including a rapid expansion of clean technologies, the Global Stocktake undertaken at COP 28 concluded that current NDCs fall short of the needed reductions, even if fully implemented.

The pledges that countries make next year must address this gap. They will need to be backed by detailed sectoral plans and informed by rigorous analysis of what and where investments are needed, to make for effective plans and close the implementation gap.

Climate action is not a zero-sum game. Nearly 10 years after the Paris Agreement, countries must come together to reaffirm the multilateral spirit, accelerate cooperation and enhance our collective action to put the world back on course to meet our critical climate objectives.

This is a crucial moment for action and global cooperation — in which France and China have important roles to play.

As leading G20 nations, both France and China can lead in upholding the global climate governance system and in advancing collective climate commitments. Drawing on both countries' rich experience with national planning, France and China can show the way by defining ambitious and robust decarbonization trajectories, backed by credible plans for implementation and investment, and demonstrating pathways for climate-resilient and socially-just prosperity.

Such leadership would build on the key contributions both countries have made to the multilateral climate system. The November 2015 China and France Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change was instrumental in securing the adoption of the Paris Agreement. When the Agreement faced the challenge of the US withdrawal, Europe and China stood strong in support of the Paris Agreement and multilateralism, and raised the ambition for their respective 2030 targets and long-term goals toward climate/carbon neutrality.

As France and China commemorate the 60th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations this year, the two countries have a key opportunity to deepen climate collaboration and demonstrate once again their vision and leadership to build our collective future.

Joint messages from France and China committing to enhanced action in this critical decade would send a powerful signal to the world: an unwavering shared commitment to the multilateral processes and institutions.

There would be much to gain from even closer cooperation in areas such as electricity system planning and market reform, low-carbon buildings, industrial decarbonization, methane, green finance, low-carbon standards, as well as adaptation and building a climate-resilient food system. Meanwhile, an open conversation on fostering green and resilient value chains and opportunities for cooperation can help strengthen a sustainable and just transformation. Stronger involvement of local actors can help deepen concrete collaboration, foster implementation on the ground and support local communities.

France and China can also play key roles in supporting other countries in their transition. Finance is the critical piece for enabling the global transition toward a sustainable future and meeting our climate objectives, particularly as poorer and climate-vulnerable countries face continuous barriers to access financing and increasingly constrained fiscal space. The issue is too vast and complex to be addressed only within the COP format and important discussions have also been taking place at the G20 and meetings of key international financial institutions.

Building on momentum from the Summit on a New Global Financing Pact in Paris and in light of China's role in the upcoming Finance in Common Summit, the two countries can drive critically needed change in the multilateral financial system, unlocking new sources of financing to support climate goals, and enabling better coordination and transparency across different bilateral and multilateral financing initiatives and their alignment with national transition plans. France and China can also support other countries by sharing their rich experiences and lessons in creating domestic enabling conditions for transition, in particular for accelerating renewable energy deployment.

France and China also have unique roles in advocating for the integration of nature and climate talks, leveraging China's leadership role in the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and France's co-chairship of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and its hosting of the 2025 UN Ocean Conference.

At this critical juncture, our two countries can set strong examples for international cooperation and demonstrate that collective action is the most effective path to addressing climate change. This partnership can inspire other countries to strengthen their own commitments to a sustainable and collaborative future.

The author is president and CEO of the European Climate Foundation and a key architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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