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ClientEarth Communications

22nd August 2023

EU China Environment Project

Policy visit to Europe by Chinese environmental officials

The EU-China Environment Project, funded by the EU, recently facilitated an official visit to Europe by
a delegation of 12 Chinese environmental officials. The delegation, made up of senior officials from China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), and environmental officials from Chinese localities including Chengdu, Chongqing and Hainan, was accompanied on its trip by three of our colleagues from ClientEarth’s Beijing office.

The officials visited key stakeholders in Paris and Brussels over six days, on June 1-7, focusing on coordination of air pollution and carbon emission reduction policies in the transport sector. In particular, the delegation met with the EU Commission (including DG Environment and DG Clima), the French Ministry for Energy Transition, the Institut for the Paris Region, the Port of Antwerp and the European Federation for Transport and Environment.

This policy visit marked the first face-to-face meeting between China’s MEE and the EU Commission since the COVID pandemic, and it was very well received by both sides. Air pollution and carbon emission reductions in the transport sector are high on the agenda for both China and the EU in the context of greening the respective economies. The discussions covered both high-level policy design issues, such as incorporating the transport sector into the ETS, and practical issues such as reducing ammonia from non-point sources.

Important bilateral exchanges took place on topics including: legal mechanisms for controlling air pollution in the EU; modification of the EU ETS to include the transportation and shipping sectors; the ongoing process of updating the EU’s road transport emission standards; national-level policies to decarbonise transport; city strategies and planning, and the role of civil society organisations in reducing transport emissions, including monitoring corporate behaviour in events like the ‘dieselgate’ controversy.

We consider such in-person meetings after COVID to be more valuable than ever in forging mutual understanding and forming synergies between the EU and China for the green transition. With a lack of face-to-face meetings in recent years, the visit provided the opportunity for officials from both sides to catch up on recent progress in the areas discussed and explore where their efforts overlap and where they diverge.

For example, managing emissions from transportation is a cross-cutting issue, where efforts to reduce pollution may impact on carbon reduction efforts, as well as having a broader economic impact. China’s MEE has a dedicated department for integrating policy developments across the range of its responsibilities. The EU’s DG Environment is required to make impact assessments of its proposed policies on the priorities of other DGs.

An in-depth study on this same topic, looking at the experiences of both the EU and China, is also ongoing. The learnings of the policy visit will be integrated into the study’s content and the policy recommendations, which will be of particular interest to the MEE and China’s Ministry of Transport.

The EU–China Environment Project, established in 2018 and funded by the EU, is implemented by ClientEarth, alongside GOPA and the Policy Research Centre for Environment and Economy of the MEE. It supports cooperation between the EU and China on environmental policy, and aims to improve environmental protection standards and increase integration between the EU and China on environmental governance.