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EU and China launch joint scheme to tackle pollution

EU to work with China on developing new climate legislation and green growth initiatives

EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik has said business and environmentalism go hand in hand. (Source: Friends of Europe)

By Nilima Choudhury 

China and the EU will launch a joint a joint plan to promote green growth and tackle pollution on Friday.

More than 50 European companies and business associations in Europe have joined EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik in backing the Environmental Sustainability Project.

Despite the pair’s high-profile spat over solar panel prices, China and the EU have maintained close links, and Beijing has asked for help in tackling pollution, which it believes could provoke civil unrest.

“We are focusing on three areas, one will be pollution with the heavy metals, one is water pollution, and one is waste treatment,” Potočnik told Reuters.

“If you’re following the statements of political leaders, obviously they are recognising that this is becoming a serious issue,” Potočnik said. “They are also addressing it more thoroughly with their political actions.”

With Europe’s cooperation, China will prepare its own climate law, initiate a carbon trading scheme and also procure a low carbon roadmap for 2015.

Green growth

Speaking to the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, Potočnik acknowledged the environmental challenges faced by countries like China which is experiencing rapid industrial growth.

“It is our companies – Chinese and European – that will provide the solutions to do this and respond to these promising markets,” said Potočnik.

“It is the private sector that will bring about economic transformation. Turning challenges into opportunities to do more business and to do it better and smarter.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, EU Commissioner of Climate Action Connie Hedegaard told journalists that China’s National Development and Reform Commissioner Xie Zhenua believed a “low carbon development will give China a competitive edge.”

In Beijing, Potočnik reiterated this: “China, one of the EU’s major trading partners, will be a key player is this transformation to more resource efficient production and products. Both the EU and China recognise that our future economic growth needs to be green. Environmental protection and economic growth must go hand in hand.”

Carbon trading

China launched its first of seven carbon trading pilot schemes in Shenzhen last month. The world’s largest source of carbon emissions also plans to apply a pollution cap by 2016.

“China is readying [its] climate legislation for 2014 and [it] will also implement a nationwide emissions trading scheme as of 2015,” said EU Climate Commissioner spokesman  Isaac Valero-Ladron.

He said the country is also preparing new emission targets although government officials are yet to clarify any details.

Last year the EU announced a €25 million funding programme for a variety of environmental initiatives in China, including €5 million to provide technical support.

“We’d like to increase our cooperation in that field,” said Ladron. “Without China it would be very difficult – almost impossible – to have a global binding deal by 2015 so I think it’s in Europe and China’s interest.

“What we’re trying to do here is foster and strengthen our cooperation. We need China on board and we need China signing up to a legally binding deal.”

The Chinese government has already established booming renewable energy industries, applauded this week for plans to further boost its solar photovoltaic (PV) sector by almost quadrupling its domestic capacity target to 35GW which could power almost 9 million homes.

A statement by the Chinese State Council said 10GW would be added each year until 2015.

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