Since 2018, the Strategic Partnership for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (SPIPA) has been contributing to the achievement of the Paris Agreement goals by promoting an exchange between different stakeholders from politics, business, and academia in the European Union and other major economies. In China, the project has coordinated a multi-part conference series addressing climate risks, impacts and adaptation. The dialogue between Beijing and Brussels, which usually takes a hybrid format, has already been held three times since October 2020 and connects experts from the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC), Tsinghua University and various other research institutes and think tanks across the EU and China.
The first event took place on October 28, 2020 and focused on two dimensions: climate change-induced risks and impacts as well as adaptation policies. The speakers, Mr. Sébastien Paquot, Head of Section and Counsellor for Climate Action and Environment of the EU Delegation to China and Professor Zhang Xiliang, Director of the Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy of Tsinghua University pointed out the complexity of climate risks, impacts and adaptation. The experts presented study results on the physical implications of climate change. The increase in the occurrence of extreme weather events and the rising sea level, in particular, are cause for concern. Furthermore, Prof. Zhang Xiliang highlighted the importance for Chinese think tanks to exert more research efforts on adaptation as well as to strengthen the research on how to quantify the economic impacts of climate risks. On December 2, 2020, the second workshop was held on biophysical impact modelling, which is a topic that had not yet been fully explored by representatives of the European Union and China. Hence, the discussions were not only informative and useful but also fed into the preparations for the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Glasgow in 2021. Finally, on March 17, the experts discussed the economic impact of climate change and risk management. Prof. Zhang Xiliang reiterated the significance of the scientific exchange and expressed his gratitude towards the European colleagues for their valuable input. Moreover, he acknowledged that tackling climate change is one of the top priorities of the Chinese central government and that the outcomes from the workshop series would be highly appreciated.
A root concern throughout the workshop series was the lack of reliable data for China’s scientific consideration of climate change impacts. Despite excellent methodological practices, it is therefore difficult for scientists to make precise statements. Furthermore, there is currently a focus on mitigation rather than on adaptation in China. While mitigation is absolutely critical to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, affected countries need to invest and research further in adaptation to build resilience.
The exchange with the European colleagues not only provided experts on the Chinese side with ideas on how to approach these challenges but also opened up new perspectives for both parties. Additionally, mutual understanding has been promoted. In the wake of the workshop series, it became clear that climate change has now become an economic reality and that grave welfare losses are inevitable if mitigation and adaptation efforts are not made early on. Ultimately, both entities face the shared challenge of preventing the physical and economic impact of climate change and follow the same goal of achieving carbon neutrality. Hence, fostering future exchange is valuable for both sides. As an upcoming step, the experts agreed on preparing a joint paper, summarizing the most important findings from the workshops. Such a document not only could support China and the EU in their preparations for the COP 2021 but also serve as a guiding document for future climate legislation.