Interview: UN General Assembly president hails China's leadership in tackling climate change

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-04 20:24:35|Editor: mmm
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by Xinhua writers Jin Jing, Zhang Jiawei, Zhang Zhang

KATOWICE, Poland, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- China has shown leadership in tackling climate change by making "immense progress" on low carbon technologies and policy work to reduce emissions, said United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) President Maria Fernanda Espinosa.

"Climate change needs shared leadership and strong multilateralism to be addressed effectively," Espinosa told Xinhua in an interview as the two-week-long Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change kicked off in Katowice, Poland.

"I think that China's demonstration of the mutually reinforcing goals of climate action and economic development can go a long way to encourage others to increase ambition to see a sustainable and prosperous future," Espinosa said, noting that China has also played a critical role outside the negotiating room.

The most affordable solar appliances worldwide are Chinese, and the impact on people's lives, particularly by bringing electricity and empowering communities, is evident, she said.

Thanks to increased investment in green energy, China's carbon intensity, or the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP), declined by 46 percent by 2017 from 2005 levels, meeting the target ahead of schedule of a 40-45 percent drop by 2020, according to the latest report by the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

"I'm impressed with China's commitment to its climate goals, as are indicated by the fact that China has met its 2020 targets 3 years ahead of schedule," said Espinosa.

According to a report published by the International Labour Organization (ILO), 24 million new jobs will be created globally by 2030 if the right policies to promote a greener economy are put in place.

"China is ahead of the curve here," Espinosa said.

Likewise, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says energy transformation alone will result in a net profit of 11.6 million jobs worldwide, Espinosa said.

"Learning from the excellent example China is setting, the rest of the world has much to gain from the opportunities presented by climate action," she said.

"China is helping to build the future that we will need to ensure a prosperous and healthy international environment," she added.

The UN climate conference is crucial in tackling climate change as it aims to finalize implementation guidelines and provide clarity on how to carry out the landmark Paris deal fairly for all participating countries.

"We count on this leadership now more than ever," said Espinosa.

The UNGA president said that China and the Group of 77 have an important role to play during the climate talks as they represent the largest negotiating bloc and their decisions and stances represent the largest proportion of the world's population.

Meanwhile, their countries are home to the majority of the world's youth, thereby making decisions critical to future generations, she said.

The conference is being held following the release of a series of UN and other reports on the increasing impact of greenhouse gas concentrations and emissions.

Economic losses caused by extreme climate conditions were more than 500 billion U.S. dollars last year, said Espinosa, adding that global inequality has exacerbated as poorer countries and communities, with less resilient infrastructure, are more vulnerable to climate challenges.

Admitting that there is still political division among the negotiators, the UNGA president called on the participating parties to act with "audacity" as humanity's shared collective future is at stake.

"All we need now is the audacity to act on climate change," she said. "We need the audacity to work past differences."

The success of the Paris Agreement depends on the world's ability to deliver on it at every level, said Espinosa.

"It will not be easy, but if we are willing to listen, and to compromise, and to effectively harness opportunities such as low carbon technologies, then we have a chance," she said.