Convergence and Divergence in Environmental Policy Norms: EU-China Climate Negotiations, 2005-15

Scott Leatham

The EU has been one of the strongest voices for a global response to climate change, institutionalised by the UN. Historically, however, China (which since 2002 has emerged as one of the most important greenhouse gas emitters) and the EU have approached the climate change crisis from different angles, and with opposing views. While the EU has primarily been concerned with climate change mitigation, China has concentrated on adaption to climate change. In addition, China, together with countries such as India and Brazil, has led the effort to recognise the differences in responsibility and capacity between developed and developing countries at the international governance level. Recently, however, the organisational principles of ecological modernisation and sustainable development have represented a significant convergence in EU-China climate change policy. Both countries have, in 2015, reinforced their commitment to reconciling the concurrent challenges of climate change and growing the economy. This has happened on a bilateral platform (Joint statement: EU-China summit, 2015), in multilateral negotiations (UN COP21) and in their individual pledges. A convergence between the two international actors might represent a significant shift in the global governance of climate change. This paper is informed by an analysis primarily of the EU-China Partnership on Climate Change, established in 2005, as well as the various bilateral commitments since. On the multilateral level, the contrast in commitments and behaviour between the 2009 and 2015 UN climate summits will be discussed in detail.

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