Abstract

In essence, international climate negotiation is a serious and responsible global effort, despite various conflicts, to establish a rational international climate regime. In essence, tackling climate changes is leading the globe to actualize sustainable development of all humankind along the low-carbon, green, and cyclic-development path. Thus, climate negotiation should be driving all parties to achieve a global climate regime arrangement in a constructive way. Therefore, this paper suggests focusing on the following three major recommendations: early developed countries take the lead in committing positively to absolute emission reduction; the developing countries contribute according to their abilities and stages of development; the developed countries perform real deeds using their funds and technology. Based on substantial breakthrough that would be made, progressive supplement and improvement could be accomplished through the mechanism of review and adjustment under the Convention framework. This path represents a combination of bottom-up and top-down. The ultimate way out of international climate negotiation lies in win-win cooperation. Profound reasons for China to participate proactively and practically in international climate negotiation, based on its actual conditions, are the internal wants and needs of its scientific and sustainable development, as well as the undertaking of international responsibilities as a responsible, large, developing country.

Keywords

Climate negotiation ; International climate regime ; Win-win cooperation ; Sustainable development

1. Goal and essence of climate negotiation

The conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been hosted for 20 years, and the negotiation has advanced, but without breakthrough; therefore, a huge disappointment is only natural. The difficulties lie in the following situations: on the one side, some developed countries lack the political will to take responsibilities subjectively; on the other side, substantial emission reduction should not only aim at energy saving, but also at adjusting energy structure and transforming the economic development pattern to actualize low carbon. However, this is not easy objectively. The countries at different stages of development are confronted with different difficulties, but all of them should expend their efforts.

Although differences and divergences exist among the developed and developing countries, as well as the different groups, climate negotiation still exists, and it has not collapsed despite conflict and disagreement. The root cause is that all countries co-exist on this planet and climate change is faced by all humankind. Combating climate change relates to the entire worlds sustainable development and all our descendants' wellbeing. Therefore, all parties share realistic and potential common benefits; after conflict and disagreement, all must shake hands, keep on with the talks, and strive for constructive results.

A fundamental pivot here is the scientificity of climate change. Despite some uncertainties, climate change is characterized by global warming and frequent abnormal climatic events; after all, this fact has an objective existence: as for the attribution of climate change, natural factors are evidently basic reasons that existed all along. However, since the Industrial Revolution, the impact of human activities on the environment (including climate) is also obvious. Besides, much scientific data prove that, as the overall population rises and fossil energy consumption increases, the impact of human activities tends to be more prominent. IPCC experts proposed expressly that human activities are very likely to be the major cause of climate change since the Industrial Revolution (IPCC, 2013 ). Although climate change is caused by natural and human factors together, obviously, human beings can change only their pattern of behavior. Climate negotiation is about what humankind can do to tackle climate change.

To this end, although some countries lack good faith, the climate negotiation of more than 190 nations, by and large, is a serious and responsible global effort, which should not be regarded as a farce. Besides, combating climate change has made significant achievements in stages, for instance, the Kyoto Protocol that limits developed countries' carbon emissions is constructive and hard-won. Some people might want to limit developing countries' development to low carbon; notwithstanding, low-carbon development characterized by reducing greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions of fossil energy is a requirement for sustainable development, and should not be regarded as a conspiracy or a trap. Even if there is a trap, it can still be avoided. From the strategic height of ecological civilization and the scientific development perspective, the so-called trap theory and conspiracy theory are already stereotypes.

The essence of combating climate change consists, through humankinds joint efforts, of controlling adverse development of climate change, avoiding exceeding the climate carrying capacity, and avoiding the critical point of climate catastrophe; furthermore, realizing all humankinds sustainable development along the path of low-carbon, green, and cyclic development.

International climate negotiations goal is to establish a rational international climate regime and, guided by Convention principles, define the liabilities and responsibilities of all contracting parties and reach an agreement on this regimes arrangement.

2. Ultimate resolution of international climate negotiation lies in win-win cooperation

Establishing a rational international climate regime is the goal of climate negotiation; however, realizing this goal involves many beneficial factors. If it is compared to a multi-dimensional function, this goal may have thousands of dimensions. First, it involves more than 190 countries, classified into different categories; second, each country has many internal factors or issues, such as economic, social, energy, environmental, agricultural, forestry, science and technology, and multi-industry issues. If the above goal can be expressed in an explicit objective function, with all these issues as variables, an optimum solution can be obtained by calculating the extremum. Unfortunately, we cannot find such a function, nor obtain the optimum solution. For such a goal with so many factors, even seeking an ideal, perfect solution is impractical. Fortunately, the beneficial factors, mentioned above, are not all contradictory and conflicting. The solution is to seize only the principal point of common benefit and pursue a rational and practical macro goal.

The essence of tackling climate change is driving humankind to a road of low-carbon, green, and sustainable development: this is the common ground and the greatest common divisor of all nations. It requires human wisdom to obtain a common, relatively good result for this complex and ubiquitous problem. If we lack the needed wisdom, we all might be beaten, and that means a catastrophe we cannot afford to have; if some win and some lose, climate negotiation will not work. Only when we all have a win-win attitude, can we really strive for and achieve the maximum common benefit. Therefore, the ultimate way out of international climate negotiation can be nothing but win-win cooperation.

Climate negotiation is supposed to drive all parties to achieve a global climate regime arrangement in a constructive way, in other words, a virtuous cycle. So, how can we lead a virtuous cycle? As for the talks on the post-2020 agreement, this paper suggests a limited objective, giving prominence to key points, and seizing the following three aspects to achieve substantive results. This will enhance peoples confidence, leading to progress and improvement.

  • The early developed countries take the lead in committing positively to absolute emission reduction. Some countries developed early in factors of economy, society, welfare, science and technology, education, and so on. They are also the first contributors of carbon emissions: that is the objective concept of early developed countries. To begin the virtuous cycle, it is rational for the early developed countries to commit to substantial and absolute emission reduction.
  • The developing countries, including China, adopt intensive mitigation and adaptation activities; they make contributions according to their abilities and stages of development. In this way, they respond and express good faith, thus increasing mutual trust and forming a virtuous cycle.
  • In funds and technical matters, the developed countries should perform real deeds, which is their appropriate responsibility and contribution, thus realizing a win-win relationship between developed and developing countries. In fact, for developed countries to contribute capital and technology to help developing countries in their capacity building for adapting to and mitigating climate change is not just a one-way street; it also benefits them. It can help developed countries to form some new growth points. As long as proper arrangement is made, it may also benefit the development of developed countries. Besides, it can also increase mutual trust and intensify the foundation of international cooperation. To this end, in funds and technology, the developed countries should conduct negotiations in good faith and hold the macro strategic concept of standing higher.

If the post-2020 agreement can focus on the three points above, make progress, and construct an arrangement, it might lead climate negotiation to developing in a positive direction. And in 2015, we can focus on an early harvest and reach a framework agreement to transfer positive signals to the international community as soon as possible.

Of course, the countries' overall contributions are likely to differ from the global goal of controlling climate change (environmental integrity). A kind of mechanism is needed to adjust the countries' contributions; for instance, the contracting parties review the countries' commitment and contributions to evaluate the sufficiency of measures implementation. Important problems here are how to determine the review arrangement and rules under the Convention principles, evaluate inferior commitments, and require adjustment. In regard to the talks on review rules, however, they can be further refined after the above three arrangements are determined and completed in subsequent talks. This review and adjustment is of significance in either legal or moral binding effect.

Understanding of the climate negotiation path, as mentioned above, reflects the combination of bottom-up and top-down, represents the common but differentiated responsibilities , involves the principles of considering fairness and abilities, and reflects a positive, realistic attitude. Achieving results in limited aspects at first, then detailing, carrying out, improving, and promoting in order to realize win-win cooperation takes positive action, not only on tackling climate change, but also on building a new-style international order under the United Nations framework.

3. Profound causes for China to participate proactively and practically in international climate negotiation based on actual conditions

Statistics indicate that annual per capita energy consumption in the United States is nearly four times the world average (WB, 2014 ). If the annual per capita energy consumption of all countries equaled that of the United States, four globes would be needed. So, the United States development pattern cannot be duplicated and generalized. Based on developed countries' energy economics analyses, an important concept may be formed: the developed countries can be classified roughly into two categories (WB, 2014 ). The United States, Canada, and Australia are one category; Europe and Japan are the other. Of these two categories, are one-time differences between the per capita energy consumption, electricity consumption, and emissions. How about China? It is evidently hopeless to follow the United States, but Europe and Japan have formed relatively low-carbon patterns. In China, the per capita resources are limited; the environmental capacity is even more limited. Furthermore, China has begun developing with much information technology, low-carbon technology, new energy, and energy-saving technology available. China will not be worse than Europe and Japan, surely. China cannot realize modernization through high-energy consumption, high carbon, and high pollution. The extensive development in recent years has made the energy consumption per GDP of China twice higher than the world average. In 2012, Chinas GDP accounted for 11.6% of the globes, while its energy consumption accounted for 21.9% (Du et al., 2013 ). Therefore, China proposed to change its development mode, driven not by international, but by scientific development demand in China. Limited environment and climate capacity caution us: changing the development mode is a task that brooks no delay.

Chinas national territorial area is as large as that of the United States, and its population is over four times that of the United States; so the average population density of China is over four times that of the United States. However, because a majority (80%) of Chinas population is distributed in the eastern region that accounts for 42% of its national territorial area, the average population density there is about eight times that of the United States. This eastern region comprises about 1/30 of the global land area, while nearly 40% of the global coal consumption, which is to say, the spatial density of coal consumption in the eastern region is 12 times that of the world average. The data also indicate that the spatial density of petroleum consumption in Chinas eastern region is three times that of the world average. This macro analysis has revealed the reason for haze pollution normalization in this region. It is a warning that our development mode touches the environments red line.

Could China be comparable to the United States in per capita cars, energy, or electricity consumption? No, China could not copy the United States development mode. Environmental management and utilization and ecological-civilization building have been raised to the forefront of the national development strategic target. That is why China takes the initiative to introduce three targets — so as to significantly reduce carbon intensity by 2020.

Besides, according to Chinas development stage, it is a large developing country. The superficial resplendence of a few big cities cannot reflect the actual situation of China lagging relatively behind or conceal the reality that Chinas poor still number more than 100 million people. Therefore, in the context of stressing quality development, the economic aggregate will keep on rising. For this reason, even if we make efforts to save energy and enhance energy efficiency, total energy consumption will still rise. Chinas natural energy endowment is mainly coal. Although China is making great efforts to develop non-fossil energy, coal consumption may take time to peak and then reduce. Therefore, to realize the three targets of substantially reducing carbon intensity by 2020, there is still a long way to go. We should attempt to make the people understand Chinas good faith and urgency for energy conservation and emission reduction as well as the practical difficulties of its stage. Only by overcoming these difficulties and achieving an economic and environmental win-win situation, can China develop healthily and advance toward ecological civilization.

In tackling climate change, the international commitments are quite consistent with domestic demand. So, based on the realization of three 2020 targets, China will surely further promote low carbon development, control total emissions, try to reach emission peak value as soon as possible, and then reduce total emissions. China is positive and pragmatic toward international negotiation against climate change, because it can promote Chinas green, low-carbon development, which might benefit global sustainable development and the transmission of ecological-civilization values. Furthermore, as the largest developing country, China also takes serious responsibility for global matters. This is an appropriate undertaking for a responsible, large country to participate in and push forward international climate negotiation to establish a rational international climate regime with pragmatic actions and a proactive attitude.

References

  1. Du et al., 2013 X.-W. Du, X.-L. Liu, B. Yang, et al.; International comparative study on Chinas energy development space; Eng. Sci., 15 (6) (2013), pp. 4–19 (in Chinese)
  2. IPCC, 2013 IPCC; Summary for policymakers; T.F. Stocker, D.-H. Qin, G.-K. Plattner (Eds.), et al. , Climate Change 2013: the Physical Science Basis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004
  3. WB (The World Bank), 2014 WB (The World Bank); World Development Indicators; (2014) Accessed: http://data.WorldBank.org.cn/indicator/all
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