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China’s climate change Pacific reset

Tuesday 31 May 22 11:15am

 

By Jeremy Rose

LAST month saw the opening of the China-Pacific Island Countries Climate Action Cooperation Centre in Liaocheng City, Shandong Province. It’s opening, perhaps not surprisingly, barely rated a mention in the New Zealand and Australian media.

But with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi meeting with Pacific leaders in Fiji this week the opening is beginning to look like the first move in a reset of China's Pacific diplomacy.


In retrospect the  launch of CPICCACC was quite a big deal. Representatives from Niue, Samoa, Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands Kiribati, Vanuatu and the Cook Island all attended


Vice foreign minister Xie Feng delivered a speech via video link and the leader of the Shandong branch of the communist party, the governor of Shandong and the vice minister of ecology and environment all attended in person.


Initial reports in the Chinese media gave little hint of what the focus of the new centre would be.


But in an interview with the Global Times, published over the weekend, the centre’s executive director, Chen Dezheng, sheds some light on the centre and its aims.



There’s the usual jumbled rhetoric – which possibly becomes even more jumbled in translation.


Chen describes the origins of the centre like this: “In order to implement the Belt and Road Initiative and the concept of ‘a community with a shared future for mankind,’ deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership of mutual respect and common development with Pacific island countries, jointly promote the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement, and build a fair and reasonable global cooperation climate governance system, in October 2021, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated at the China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers' Meeting that China is willing to work with the island countries to address the challenges brought about by climate change, and proposed the establishment of a cooperation centre”


The centre was jointly created by China's ministries of foreign affairs, ecology, and environment and the Shandong Provincial People’s Government.


Liaocheng University is known for its interest and expertise in the South Pacific.


 

Chen said the centre plans to employ researchers “with talent from other academic areas such as world history, international politics and ecology, as well as scholars from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Fudan universities.”


The centre consists of three departments: international cooperation, training, and decision making.

 

MOUs have been signed with the University of the South Pacific and the National University of Samoa.


Joint academic conferences, academic exchanges and joint research projects are all being planned.

 

Lacking in "discourse power"

 

Chen said Pacific Island states lacked “international discourse power.”


“They are only innocent bearers of the evil consequences of climate change, while the initiators are countries outside of the region, especially developed countries. Due to this, island countries cannot fundamentally influence the big powers' policy on carbon issues and on global climate governance, thus making it more difficult for Pacific island countries to deal with climate change.”


He said Pacific Island countries needed to “expand the scope” of the countries they were dealing to increase their “discourse power.”

 

Proposal to rent out marine space

 

In a sentence that’s sure set off alarm bells in New Zealand and Australia,  Chen said Pacific Island countries should change their traditional marine management models “to rent out marine space in exchange for necessary economic support, and require the lessee to manage the region with high standards.”

 

Chen said high-level talks on climate change between China and Pacific Island states have already been held with “much needed” machinery being donated to Kiribati and other Pacific nations.


He suggested that China’s expertise in planting seawater rice and fungus could come in useful for Pacific Island countries threatened by sea level rise.


And China’s solar, wave and tidal energy know-how could also be useful in the region.


Chen criticised Western countries for promising climate change action but failing to reduce their use of fossil fuels.


“Meanwhile, China not only possesses strong climate governance capabilities, but has also achieved remarkable results in recent years. China can provide assistance within its capacity to island countries in addressing climate change under the framework of the South-South cooperation,” he said.
Related Topics: Greenhouse Effect | Politics

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