The EU and China affirmed a commitment to tackling climate change and promoting clean energy at a summit in Brussels on Tuesday.
After fraught talks on trade and market access, the two superpowers reached a last-minute deal, including on areas of climate cooperation.
While less detailed than a 2018 joint statement on climate change, it stressed “the importance of showing resolve on the clean energy transition and of assuming greater leadership on the global environmental agenda”.
Leaders said they would “reinforce their cooperation on green finance” and work towards a successful outcome at a climate summit to be hosted by the UN secretary general in September.
In a separate statement, energy chiefs called for boosting renewables, switching to lower carbon fuels and promoting energy efficiency. This covered smoothing trade in liquefied natural gas (LNG), but made no mention of coal.
Prior to the summit, a paper by the European Commission on the strategic outlook for the relationship called on China to strengthen its climate goals.
It highlighted China’s impact as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and a major exporter of coal technology through its belt and road initiative.
Brussels is urging China to peak its domestic emissions earlier than 2030, the target Beijing contributed to the 2015 Paris Agreement.
At the same time, UN chief Antonio Guterres is pushing leaders to bring plans, not speeches to his 23 September summit in New York. These should lead to a round of stronger national pledges by 2020, he has said.
Under the Paris pact, countries agreed to hold global warming to 2C, or 1.5C if possible. Yet national plans are collectively inadequate to meet that goal and the deal sets out a timetable for ratcheting up ambition.
Last month, China’s environment minister Li Ganjie said “we are updating our [national climate pledge] in accordance with the Paris Agreement and will communicate our [long-term climate strategy] on time by 2020”.