U.S. President Barack Obama’s Nov. 14-15 visit with President Hu Jintao of the People’s Republic
of China highlights the Asian country’s emergence as a world superpower. The timing of Obama’s
trip, about one month before the upcoming climate change negotiations in Copenhagen,
underscored the fact that China also plays a leading role on the international stage when it comes to
the environment. In this regard, China has led by example. China’s National Climate Change
Policy, released in 2007, reveals a strong commitment to reducing the nation’s impact on global
climate change and the environment. In the plan, China pledges to “strive to build a resource
conservative and environmentally friendly society, enhance national capacity to mitigate and adapt
to climate change, and make further contribution to the protection of the global climate system”
(“China’s National” 2007). This commitment has already been demonstrated through the adoption
of domestic policies that promote energy efficiency and conservation, improve motor vehicle fuel
economy, set ambitious energy targets, and promote reforestation (“Climate Change” 2007).
Recognizing China’s substantial domestic efforts on behalf of the climate system, this report turns a
lens on the nation’s pivotal role in the international arena and potential to guide the negotiations
toward a desirable outcome for all parties. This paper discusses critical issues for China in the
upcoming UNFCCC Conference of the Parties and makes recommendations for China to further its
environmental, economic, and political goals of achieving a circular economy and a harmonious
society. These recommendations also outline how the PRC could enhance its leadership as a world
power through the international climate regime.
In regards to the legal structure of an international climate change agreement:
In the AWG-KP China could:
• Gain time to restore the stalled AWG-KP talks by convincing all other countries of the
need to extend the Bali Action Plan’s timeline for agreement.
• Work with the G77 and Annex I countries to draft a post-COP 15 negotiating time-
• Cement the support of the African Group in the AWG-KP so that the African Group does
not stymie talks as in Barcelona.
• Convince India not to rely exclusively on COP decisions, since these decisions have weak
• Join with India in offering to restrict per capita emissions pegged to the Annex I per
capita average. China could take this position within the Contact Group on Potential
In the AWG-LCA, China could:
• Distance itself from the Japanese and Australian proposals on the table because they
undermine the KP’s legal bindingness.
• Safeguard against Annex I countries’ impulse to cherry-pick aspects of the KP –i.e. the
• Push for “politically binding” targets on emissions reductions and financing from
In regards to financing mechanisms in an international climate change agreement:
China’s Path to Copenhagen 3
• Engage in the CDM reform discussion to demonstrate leadership on behalf of other
• Ensure that World Climate Change Fund assessments account for cumulative
• Expedite agreements on funding from market-based levies scheduled for COP 16. This
may be a viable option for securing some form of adaptation and mitigation funding, despite
the likelihood of a weak or no agreement emerging from Copenhagen.
• Secure promised funding commitments from developed countries.
• Encourage voluntary contributions from developed countries.
• Leverage the negotiations to build bilateral agreements regarding carbon capture and
storage and markets for Chinese-made clean technologies.
In regards to Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) in an international climate
• Support flexibility in NAMAs projects so that goals, and the tools to achieve those goals, can
be developed according to China’s priorities.
• Push for interim financial measures and secure adequate climate finance for early
• China could support MRV for technology-based conditional NAMAs. MRV of NAMAs in
developing countries is seen as pivotal in establishing compliance and building credibility in the
In regards to “Measurable, Reportable, and Verifiable” Actions and Commitments in an
international climate change agreement:
• Push for compulsory MRV for all developed country commitments and support,
particularly through a third-party or international body that can independently MRV such
• Consider what aspects of its climate policy China has the capacity to MRV or are
willing to submit for international MRV and consider putting those on the negotiation
• Vie for capacity building and support from developed countries to strengthen MRV
With regards to China’s bilateral negotiations with the United States:
• Capitalize on common ground. Both the US and China can spur local mitigation actions
with emphases on energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart grid development, and data-
driven environmental performance.
• Seek no-loss concessions. Now that the United States EPA has offered to fund and assist
China’s NDRC in a green house gas inventory, China could offer to MRV select mitigation
actions at low cost or no cost.
• Seek win-win scenarios. The United States and EU want steep emission cuts from China,
and China wants more funding for adaptation, mitigation and technology transfer. There is
room for both sides to find a beneficial outcome.
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