Interview: Leading German climate expert sees great potential in closer cooperation with China

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-21 00:57:07|Editor: yan
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by Ren Ke

BERLIN, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the world's leading experts on the economics of climate change, has said that climate policies will play an increasingly important role in the future, and that he expects closer cooperation in this field between Europe and China for the benefit of mankind and for safeguarding multilateralism.

Edenhofer is director and chief economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Between 2008 and 2015 he was co-chair of Working Group III of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He contributed heavily to the shaping of the Fifth Assessment Report on climate change mitigation, which provided the scientific basis for the Paris Agreement.

"Climate change is increasingly apparent around the world. The coral reefs are disappearing, extreme weather events are increasing, and temperature is rising. Climate change is causing inequality because it has a much stronger impact on poor people," Edenhofer said in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Meanwhile, global emissions are still rising with an annual growth rate roughly between 2 percent to 3 percent, which is quite dramatic, according to Edenhofer, who accuses the German government of not doing enough to cut emissions.

Pushed by the "Fridays for Future" student movement, climate change has become one of the priority topics in Germany and also across Europe. People from all walks of life are talking about it, and the green parties in Germany and many other European countries are gaining popularity in polls and in this May's European Parliament elections.

Faced with the public's increasing concern about climate change, European governments and the EU are gearing up to tackle the issue. The EU's 28 national leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday are likely to embrace a more ambitious stance by committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Germany has established a "climate cabinet" headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel to address the issue. Last week, Merkel visited the PIK for a discussion with Edenhofer and other climate experts that lasted more than two hours. They focused on CO2 pricing, which is a hot topic in Germany and which the country's government is considering introducing.

"That is huge progress," said Edenhofer, adding that all parties except the right-wing populists are talking about how the issue should be addressed. Ten years ago, people were still talking about whether this issue should be addressed at all.

"I am pretty sure that the issue of climate change will play an increasingly important role in future politics," said Edenhofer.

Edenhofer considers Carbon pricing the best way to cut emissions, as it is a big issue for coal-fired facilities but makes clean technologies more profitable and hence incentivizes innovation and upscaling in energy sector, such as battery technologies, and artificial intelligence in the electricity sector. CO2 pricing will also make the use of fossil fuels less profitable, said Edenhofer, who believes that the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 will only be achieved by phasing out coal.

Germany is undergoing an energy transition, a key effort to address climate change. Today, electricity from renewable energy sources accounts for 38 percent of the country's total energy consumption. The German government has decided to phase out coal by 2038, but according to Edenhofer this should happen faster.

Meanwhile, as climate change is a global challenge, there is need for stronger international cooperation.

"Mankind has realized that we need cooperation, coordination and action to address climate change," said Edenhofer, adding that although the United States is not friendly to climate issues, Europe and China could join forces. China has already made great efforts to address climate change.

"Within the IPCC I worked very closely with the Chinese colleagues and I always felt they were very aware of the problems. I feel very confident in China addressing climate change," said Edenhofer.

Edenhofer called for more regular exchanges between universities and research institutes to enable them to jointly develop new low--carbon technologies. He also expected Germany, Europe and China to cooperate in integrating their carbon markets, which will give a huge push to the ongoing international negotiations.

"Over the last 10 years, I have experienced that China is one of the important forces for multilateralism. In all the negotiations within the IPCC, China was very productive, constructive, very helpful in many respects," said Edenhofer.

"I would dream that Europe and China could play a very important role to strengthen international multilateralism. COP24 (the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Katowice showed that multilateralism survived despite bad news from the United States and Brazil. In that sense, it is worthwhile to invest in multilateralism. China and Europe can join forces here," said Edenhofer.