So was it worth spending 23 hours in planes, and 6 hours in cars, for two days of discussion? Well yes, I think it was.
China clearly hasn’t enjoyed being held up as the stage villain for gutting last year’s Copenhagen climate change talks of any substance. The regime doesn’t want to do anything that will curb the country’s economic growth, but at the same time it recognises better than many governments that global warming is a genuine threat that will cause the country harm. There were no expressions of climate change denial at our meeting.
A mixed bag of parliamentarians from a dozen countries around the world had a genuine exchange of views with a similar number of members of the National Peoples’ Congress environment committee.
It wasn’t great, the interpretation being sometimes hard to follow, but it wasn’t bad. We spelt out the problems arising from the lack of an international agreement but we didn’t condemn China. We accepted that, with its low per capita emissions, it has the moral right to continue to grow. But I pointed out that this wouldn’t count for very much if it simply frustrated getting action taken.
The Chinese response became ever more friendly. They talked about all the things they were doing to try and curb the rate at which their emissions are growing, and they used the occasion to announce publicly that they are to introduce a Climate Change Act that will require their industry to meet some specific requirements. So even if they are not sticking to the UN rulebook they are getting on with the game in their own way.
We had some sympathy for one Chinese congressman who commented, wistfully: “The actions of legislators are not always appreciated by the people.”
Positive words from EU Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, didn’t get a hearing. The video presentation she transmitted from Brussels got blocked by the Great China Firewall!
Maybe, just maybe, our contribution will have helped China be a little more positive in its attitude towards securing an international agreement on climate change. Anyway, it gave them a nudge in that direction.
We concluded by agreeing a joint declaration that paid homage to the usual mantra by making reference to the need to avoid global temperatures rising by as much as 2 degrees Celsius.
Trouble is, as you look at the rate of growth in China’s emissions, let alone that of other developing nations where even less is being done to try and stem the pace, it is not an objective that seems remotely credible.