PARIS: French President Francois Hollande heads to China on Monday to try and persuade Beijing, a key country in the fight against global warming, to give a decisive push to negotiations ahead of a key climate conference in Paris.
China alone produces about 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it the biggest polluter on the planet and a major player in the fate of the upcoming UN climate change conference which begins in the French capital on November 30.
The main aim of Hollande’s trip is to secure a strong joint statement from his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, ahead of the crunch talks in Paris to secure a global climate pact.
The conference, which will be attended by at least 80 world leaders including Xi and US President Barack Obama, seeks to unite all the world’s nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change, with the goal of capping warming at two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Ahead of Hollande’s visit, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will chair the Paris summit, and China’s climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua have engaged in lengthy discussions over the draft of the joint declaration.
Talks have largely stalled over the mechanism for following up on commitments by the 195 countries attending the conference: France is calling for a “legally binding” mechanism with a review every five years, while China has ruled out any kind of punitive system.
China, which was blamed for scuppering a 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen, has already promised its carbon dioxide emissions will peak “by around 2030” in a symbolic announcement in June.
And in September, Beijing also committed in a joint declaration with the United States to set up a national emissions quota system in 2017.
As the giant of the G77 group of emerging economies, Beijing is well placed to put pressure on its partners at the conference, particularly India, the world’s fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
India has effectively rejected calls to limit its use of heavily polluting coal, saying it is vital to meet the needs of its burgeoning economy and that its growth cannot be limited by environmental conditions.
Delhi has pointed the finger at wealthy developed countries as mostly to blame for global warming.
Travelling with Hollande is a delegation of around 40 business leaders as well as the ministers of foreign affairs, ecology and finance.
The French president’s China trip comes hot on the heels of a similar visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who arrived on Thursday hoping to drum up business.
Several major EU countries including Germany, France and Britain are wooing China in the hope of winning business and becoming hubs for the growing overseas trade of its yuan currency.
Hollande’s first stop will be the southwestern city of Chongqing before he flies to Beijing, where he will be received by Xi at the Great Hall of the People before talks between the two.
On Tuesday, Hollande will meet with the China Entrepreneur Club, which comprises top executives and industrialists, for talks on the Chinese economy, the second-largest in the world but which this year is expected to see its lowest growth in 25 years.
He will end his visit by addressing a Chinese-French business forum on the economy and climate, and holding talks with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and the head of the Chinese parliament.
The French president will then fly to Seoul, where his message on climate change is likely to be better received.
South Korea is home to the headquarters of the UN’s Green Climate Fund, a mechanism for transferring funds from developed to developing nations to help them counter the effects of climate change.