Cooperation is Essential to Sustainability

It is very encouraging to see the creation for reaching carbon neutrality by the mid-21st century, and the commitment by Chairman Xi Jinping in this respect is extremely important.

Editor’s Note: China and the European Union have completed their investment agreement negotiations, which will deepen China-EU cooperation in market access, trade and sustainable growth. How significant will the cooperation be? David Gosset, the founder of Europe-China Forum, discussed with Edmond Alphandéry, who served as the French Minister of Economy from 1993 to 1995 and is the founder and Chairman of the Euro 50 Group. He is currently leading the Task Force on Carbon Pricing in Europe.

A Time of Collaboration, hosted by Mr. Gosset, is a high-level dialogue with international veteran diplomats, business elites and outstanding scholars. The serial interviews are presented by China Focus in association with DG2CI Limited.

David Gosset: Sustainability is at the center of your reflection and your actions.  How do you see the connection between sustainability and cooperation?

Edmond Alphandéry: Sustainability, at the global level, is impossible without cooperation. Take the case of climate change. Carbon pricing has no border. All countries are involved. Let me give a figure to show you the importance of the issue. Let me quantify this issue of climate change. Emission of carbon in 2019 is 43 billion tons of carbon. There is a technique to suck carbon out of the air and bury it. They call it CCS, Carbon Capture and Storage. It costs around 100 euros per ton to do that. If you make the multiplication, the cost to suck the increasing of carbon every year is the enormous amount of 4,300 billion euros each year.

Look at the GDP of Germany, the GDP of Germany is only 3,400 billion euros. So, every year around the world, we increase the carbon in the atmosphere and, therefore, deteriorate climate, for a cost which is higher than the creation of wealth of the fourth country, economy in the world. It’s unbelievable. So, we need cooperation to fight this big issue.

David Gosset: Thank you very much. You spoke about climate change. In 2015, in Paris, we had a very important agreement, the Paris Agreement on climate change. Would you say, Mr. Edmond Alphandéry, that this agreement is the symbol of a collaborative spirit?

Edmond Alphandéry: Without any doubt. All countries agreed to fight climate change together and got committed to undertaking policies to these effects. We owe these achievements not only to those responsible for COP 21, and Mr. Laurent Fabius, the former Prime Minister of France, as the head of this negotiation, has been an architect, and he was very much helped by the Chinese negotiator Mr. Xie Zhenhua, whose support has been extremely useful. But we need new steps to strengthen this Agreement.

The temperature trajectory over these five years is much higher than the 1.52 degrees objective, maybe 3 or 4 degrees. And it is extremely dangerous for the future. In this respect, it is very encouraging to see the creation for reaching carbon neutrality by the mid-21st century, and the commitment by Chairman Xi Jinping in this respect is extremely important.

David Gosset: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. We know that you are a very strong advocate of a carbon pricing system. Would you say that this carbon pricing system is an expression of a new form of international cooperation?

Edmond Alphandéry: It is a new form of international cooperation. We have to introduce them in Article Six of the COP 21. To give a price of carbon is extremely efficient to reduce carbon emission. If emitting carbon has a price, then everybody has to take it into one’s decision making. For example, to produce electricity, steel, cement, the higher the price of carbon, the stronger the incentive to shift to energy which does not emit carbon. It’s a very powerful catalyst.

But the price of carbon has to be sustained over time and increasing. We have to avoid its instability. It’s a reason why I have created a Task Force on Carbon Pricing in Europe, to promote the targeting of carbon in the market in Europe.

David Gosset: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for all the things you are doing to deepen the cooperation between China and the EU, but at the same time to work to protect not only the planet, but mankind, because climate change is a threat to all of us.

Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.