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Climate poker: China warns EU on carbon border tax


Chinese President Xi Jinping blasted EU plans to develop a so-called Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism — aimed at ensuring that companies producing in countries with laxer climate rules face a carbon cost when exporting to Europe.

“Tackling climate change should … not become an excuse for geopolitics, attacking other countries or trade barriers,” Xi said, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.about:blank

The accounts of the call differed significantly between Berlin and Beijing, while France didn’t release any readout as of Friday afternoon. According to Xinhua, Xi said: “I am willing to strengthen cooperation with France and Germany on climate change.”

The European spin was more subdued.

“The three have had calls like this in the past, as part of regular international relations on their side,” an EU official said.

An official German account of the conversation said Macron and Merkel “welcomed” Xi’s announcement last year that China would reach climate neutrality by 2060. It also noted that Xi had shifted China’s description of when it would peak emissions from “around 2030” to “by 2030,” while hinting they expected more. 

“They supported the approach of China, to also adjust short-term [emissions] reduction goals,” the German readout said. 

Perceptions of what Friday’s virtual meeting was about were quite different in recent days.

China had trumpeted the need for Western powers to forge cooperation with Beijing on climate change — despite tensions over a wide array of issues and a recent tit-for-tat sanctions scuffle set off by accusations of China’s human rights violations. 

China even surprised officials in Berlin and Paris by announcing the call as a “climate summit.” That was later revised to “video summit.”

Looming over Friday’s chat was the United States, which is ramping up pressure on China to cut emissions ahead of President Joe Biden’s climate summit next week.

With U.S. climate envoy John Kerry in Shanghai, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told the Associated Press that the U.S. approach was “too negative” and lacked “a forward-looking spirit.” Kerry has consistently ruled out softening criticism of China over human rights abuses or trade tensions in order to work together on climate.

The EU and the U.S. are both calling on China, the world’s leading emitter, to do more to slash its greenhouse gas output.

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