China slowdown needn't hamper climate deal: U.N.

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 03, 2015 1:59 PM

By Alister Doyle

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - A slowdown in the Chinese economy that has alarmed global stock markets won't cast a "dark cloud" over U.N. efforts to reach an accord to slow global warming by December, the United Nations' climate chief predicted on Thursday.

Christiana Figueres also told Reuters that investments in renewable energies were rising despite some worries that a fall in oil prices, to about $50 a barrel, could brake a shift to cleaner sources of power.

"I don’t hear (of) any overall dark cloud ... being imposed on the negotiations due to the dip in the market right now,” she said of stock market declines linked to worries about the slowing of growth in China, the world's second biggest economy.

Almost 200 nations, meeting in Bonn this week, are working on an 83-page text offering widely differing options for a global deal, due in Paris at a summit from Nov. 30-Dec. 11, on how to slow climate change.World leaders failed to agree a U.N. climate accord at the last attempt in Copenhagen in 2009, partly because the global financial crisis had focused many governments on reviving jobs and growth, rather than on tackling global warming.

"We have a very different set of realities," said Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat. "Technologies that are the answer to climate change have got very much cheaper." Investments in solar and wind rose 16 percent in 2014 to $312 billion.

An international report last year said investments in cleaner energies can help economic growth, especially if health benefits of reduced air pollution from fossil fuels are included.

Figueres noted that China, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has promised that its emissions will peak by 2030.

"The challenge for the Chinese economy is how do they continue in this downturn to lift their people out of poverty without the growth they were having" while limiting use of coal and greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

Hurt by soft demand, overcapacity and falling investment, China's economy has been buffeted by plunging shares and a shock yuan devaluation, rattling global markets and potentially straining relations with China's major trading partners.

She said that the week-long Bonn talks ending on Friday, the penultimate session before Paris, were making progress. In June, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the negotiations for moving at a "snail's pace".

There was a widening acceptance, Figueres said, of how to handle loss and damage, under an agreed U.N. mechanism to help developing countries cope with threats such as rising sea levels, droughts or hurricanes.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)