On October 22 and 23, the Sino-German Climate Partnership hosted the 2020 International Climate Initiative (IKI) Interface Workshop China on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). Conducted entirely virtually due to travel restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, some 60 experts and officials from various implementing agencies , came together to exchange their ideas, experiences, goals, successes, and challenges concerning the IKI and its role in Sino-German cooperation on the topics of climate change, biodiversity, and green finance.
Photo Credit: GIZ
The IKI is Germany’s principal climate fund and has been, in the words of Hendrik Barkeling, Head of the Economic Section of the German Embassy in Beijing during his opening remarks, “one of the essential instruments for the international financing of climate change mitigation and biodiversity globally and in China.” Since its establishment in 2008, the IKI has launched more than 700 projects in over 60 countries, totaling almost EUR 3.9 billion in financing. In China alone, there are currently more than 30 IKI-funded projects. IKI operates within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), financing climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation in developing, emerging and transition countries. Leveraging Germany’s own experiences in these areas, the IKI has been able to assist China in its commitments to addressing these issues, even in the face of the challenges that have resulted from the global pandemic. Chinese counterparts on the national, regional, and local level have responded positively to IKI initiatives and have been able to implement effective projects that have augmented China’s climate goals.
Over the two days, participants discussed cooperative elements in three interconnected areas: climate change; biodiversity; and green finance.
There was broad agreement that IKI partnerships have strengthened China’s efforts to combat climate change and have helped enable the country to hasten its path towards curbing carbon emissions. Knowledge-exchange, technology-transfers, and project funding have all been important in catalyzing the realization of China’s climate ambitions. Likewise, China’s own experience has been valuable to Germany, and both countries are made stronger by sharing experiences and best practices. Comparing different implementation models and different approaches has proven useful in identifying gaps in knowledge and expertise. Ongoing as well as future cooperation will no-doubt resolve some of these shortcomings. The cooperation for the implementation of climate policy measures for strengthening the implementation and achievement of the goals of the Paris Agreement will even be intensified in the coming years. Prof. Dr. Gao Xiang, National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC) and Steffen Menzel, GIZ, introduced the bilateral IKI work on Climate Change in China. Here IKI supports various projects in China, among others the Sino-German Climate Partnership, which this year has started its fourth project phase. As well as the Sino-German Cooperation on Climate Change – NDC Implementation Project, which was commissioned just this year in order to strengthen China’s NDC process.
Germany’s current role as the president of the EU Council has also helped strengthen China’s cooperation with the European Union. Strong, longstanding cooperation between China and Germany on climate change has facilitated the set-up of the EU-China High Level Dialogue on Environment and Climate. As two of the world’s major economic blocs who are committed to carbon neutrality, closer alignment and cooperation between the EU and China can help influence the rest of the world’s climate policies, whether it is via direct assistance or behavior-changing mechanisms such as taxonomies and emissions trading schemes.
In terms of policy frameworks and legislation, biodiversity has sometimes taken a backseat to climate change initiatives, was noted by Sandra Müller-Volk during her opening speech of the second day of the Interface Workshop. But the global COVID-19 pandemic has in some ways brought conservation and biodiversity matters back to the forefront, not least because it has demonstrated that the loss of biodiversity is a direct threat to public health.
The IKI-funded Sino-German Environmental Partnership (SGEP) has helped make biodiversity an important component to overall bilateral relations. The work of the SGEP project was mentioned by various speaker of the second day. In cooperation with the BMU, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) and the China Council on International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), SGEP explores how to best exchange experiences on the prevention and control of air, water, and soil pollutions, as well as concrete policy recommendations and solutions on biodiversity protection and sustainable production and consumption patterns, all to contribute to more effective environmental and nature conservation in China, one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.
In preparation for the Convention on Biodiversity COP 15 in Kunming next year, widely billed as a crucial moment in biodiversity, much like the Paris Climate COP 21 was for climate change, SGEP is working to provide policy advice on the development and implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. This bilateral cooperation between China and Germany on this issue is significant in that it represents a unique biodiversity partnership between two large economies and non-contiguous countries from entirely different parts of the world.
Challenges arise when addressing deforestation and landscape degradation. Commodity production is the largest driver of these two phenomena, and more work needs to be done on strengthening sustainable supply chains. For its part, though, China has done an excellent job at spatial analysis and mapping, which helps inform issues surrounding land-use and how to best resolve them. Germany and the EU could do more to learn from China’s mapping experience and use it to help inform EU-wide biodiversity goals.
Even so, as China continues to increase its meat consumption, land-use issues and the expansion and intensification agriculture is going to increase the impact on biodiversity (as well as carbon emissions).
China is widely considered to be the world’s frontrunner when it comes to green finance in terms of the volume of loans issued. Germany and the EU are making strides to catch up in this area, most notably with the recent announcement of a comprehensive taxonomy, which likely have enormous ripple effects throughout the world of finance.
Still, while tremendous progress has been made in mainstreaming green finance into the over global finance sector, both the EU and China are falling short of their stated targets, meaning the ambitious pledges made by governments have not yet been matched by investors. There is a need for more uniform standards, disclosures, and definitions in order to facilitate the flow of green finance globally.
Yet, green finance has accelerated enormously in recent years and it is largely due to China and Europe’s deep commitment making all finance green finance. Further Sino-German cooperation in this area will help ensure this comes to pass.
The 2020 IKI Interface Workshop highlighted the deep connections and commitments between Germany and China on climate-related matters. IKI has been in engaged in China for just 12 years and the progress has exceeded expectations and success stories are numerous. As the workshop made clear, challenges remain, however given the strength of the relationship on climate between Germany and China, as well as the broader growing partnership between the European Union and China, lingering and future challenges are resolvable.