PARIS – For China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, the global climate accord reached in Paris marked a huge step toward greener growth that safeguards its sovereignty while falling short on funding for cleaner energy.
Xie Zhenhua, Beijing’s senior climate change envoy, said he welcomed what he described as a flawed agreement, echoing a similar summation from U.S. President Barack Obama.
On Saturday, the global climate summit in Paris produced a landmark accord that set the course for a historic transformation of the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.
“This accord isn’t perfect,” Xie told reporters late Saturday following the talks. “There are parts of it that need to be improved. But this doesn’t affect the fact that history has taken a huge step forward, and so we are satisfied.
“It should provide a lot of impetus for China’s own green, low-carbon development and as we implement it, it will promote our own domestic sustainable development,” he added.
Throughout the negotiations, Chinese delegates repeated the mantra of “differentiation, transparency and ambition” as the key interlocking elements of any deal, and also sought to ensure that China’s sovereignty remained intact.
China, in the midst of a painful economic restructuring program that has slowed growth, sought to maintain as much policy flexibility at home as it could, particularly on the thorny issue of five-year reviews, arguing that any adjustments to its 2020-2030 climate goals should be voluntary.
Beijing helped secure an exception to the five-year review with a multitrack system that said “developing countries shall be provided flexibility” and could make the reviews optional, though Chinese officials said they were still assessing the details. Details such as how national emissions-reduction efforts will be measured and verified, another issue that put the United States and China at odds, are yet to be worked out.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Paris Agreement was a “new starting point for international cooperation on climate change.”
On financing, regarded as a crucial factor, China was less pleased as the deal in its view did little to meet and extend a previous pledge for the industrialized world to provide at least $100 billion a year to poorer nations by 2020.
“On funding, we aren’t that satisfied, especially when it comes to pre-2020 funding which is relatively weak,” said Zou Ji, deputy director of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy, a government think tank.
“On post-2020 funding, they have written in the principle that developed countries have to provide support to developing countries but there are a lot of specifics that were impossible to put in the agreement.”