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Connie Hedegaard: "Sustainable growth is good business"


Connie Hedegaard

As two of the world's biggest economies, China and Europe are facing similar challenges: How to make sure that economic growth brings a better quality of life for our citizens and not polluted air and water? How to make our economies less dependent on foreign energy imports? And how to grow without wrecking the climate?

We have been asking ourselves these questions in Europe and have decided to follow a sustainable path as part of the solution.

We have binding targets for emission reductions and share of renewable energy, a price on carbon, and energy efficiency measures up to 2020. And we will adopt an ambitious 2030 target later this year, along with more renewables and energy efficiency measures.

These policies are underpinned by our emissions trading system (ETS), which puts a price on carbon and caps emissions from over 11,000 power stations and heavy industrial installations responsible for almost half of the EU's total emissions.

It is a similar system to the one that China is currently setting up. We have started a cooperation project with the Chinese authorities on emissions trading this year and it is a very good example of how we can work together on climate change.

In Europe we are reducing our emissions not only because we face a major climate challenge, as the recent IPCC reports show. We are also doing it because the transition to a low-carbon global economy presents a huge opportunity to stimulate growth by building dynamic new industries based on innovative clean technologies and clean energy.

The green sector is one of the fastest growing industries with millions of new jobs being created.

China is a good example that the ''grow now, clean up later'' is no longer an option. In other words, ''pollution is nature's red-light warning against inefficient and blind development" as Premier Li put it very recently.

In response to these challenges, China is fast turning climate change into an opportunity to encourage growth and create high-quality jobs in rapidly innovating economic sectors.

As the world's biggest single emitter of greenhouse gases - accounting for 29% of global emissions – China is crucial to the global fight against climate change. China is still a developing economy in some ways but it is also a leading economy.

Its CO2 emissions per capita are now higher than those of France or Spain, and it has reached EU levels overall. With greater levels of development and economic strength comes greater responsibility.

As we shift up a gear on the road towards finalising the new global climate agreement in Paris next year, we need China's cooperation. What China does will have a major impact on the final outcome.

Europe is doing its fair share. But we cannot tackle climate change alone. This is no longer possible in the reality of the 21st century, where emerging economies account for the biggest growth, including in energy consumption and emissions. We are at a point where all countries must act, in line with their respective capabilities and responsibilities.

China and the EU can prove to the world that green growth is not just a vague, utopian vision. It is the smart answer to many of the challenges the world is facing: more intelligent ways of producing, smarter cities with cleaner air and less pollution, less noise and less congestion, energy efficient homes, lower energy bills and cleaner sources of energy.

By leading the way, we can motivate others to move to more ambitious climate action.

No one wants China or anyone else to stop growing. On the contrary, green growth is about maintaining and improving our quality of life while ensuring pollution does not undermine economic growth. This is good business.

Last update: 24/04/2014 | Top