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Plastics, nature and environmental governance top agenda for EU-China meeting

China’s Climate Envoy, the First Vice-President of the European Commission, the UN Environment Executive Director and the Canadian Minister of the Environment and Climate Change were among the speakers at an environmental roundtable last week, co-organised by the EU – China Environment Programme, which is implemented by ClientEarth.

The roundtable, which focused on environmental governance and how China could play an increasing role in it globally, was attended by representatives of government, business and civil society from the EU, Canada and China under the umbrella of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED).

From left to right, Catherine McKenna – Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Xie Zhenhua – China’s climate envoy and Eric Solheim – UN Environment Programme chief.

China’s Climate Envoy Xie Zhenhua stressed that action on the environment can also be a win for the economy and it is important that the world sees and exploits the multiple wins available from shoring up the environment, employment and quality of life for people around the world.

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the EU Commission, highlighted the importance of working with state and non-state actors across the globe if current leaders are to live up to their responsibilities to future generations.

Left to right, Catherine Mckenna, Frans Timmermans – First Vice President of the European Commission, Xie Zhenhua and Eric Solheim.

With plastics a big focus of the conference, Timmermans was keen to find ways all of the participants could work together to reduce marine plastic litter, something which has grabbed the headlines through programmes like the BBC’s Blue Planet II and campaigns from newspapers like the Daily Mail.

Erik Solheim, the UN’s Environment Programme Executive Director, echoed this, and gave the example of India’s pledge to phase out single use plastic by 2022, which he said left other countries with little place to hide.

In her opening remarks, Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said environmental problems did not respect national borders, so working together to solve these global problems was essential.

Among the proposals discussed were how China could help to foster a movement by explicitly inviting non-state actors such as business and civil society to engage with COP15 on biodiversity in Beijing, in a fashion similar to the Lima Action Agenda ahead of Paris.

The full morning of discussions also involved representatives from industry and NGOs, with some business representatives stressing that ideas and examples should be shared between China and Europe to accelerate innovation for the benefit of the planet.

The World Economic Forum has offered its platform to bring heads of state and business leaders together around the topic of nature. A workshop will discuss how best to take advantage of the winter Davos in January 2019.

Dimitri de Boer, Head of ClientEarth’s China Programme, makes a point at the Roundtable

Dimitri De Boer, Head of ClientEarth’s China Programme, said: “China is in an excellent position to play a central role in how we approach the many environmental problems facing our planet. Those concerned about the environment should welcome China taking a leading role.

“We were delighted to be involved in setting this up and hope to continue to work closely with all of those present to follow up on ways China can play a leading role in protecting nature and biodiversity, the climate and the oceans.”

CCICED uses results of discussions like the Rountable to advise the highest levels of the Chinese Government.

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