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EU, China Race to Secure Green Projects in Southeast Asia

December 2, 2021, 04.04 PM

Last year, both sides launched a High-Level Environment and Climate Dialogue and their Joint Communique on Climate and Environment published in October extended their commitments to climate cooperation, including on transitions away from coal and fossil fuel subsidies.

The EU and several European development banks have now pledged more than €780 million ($883 million) to the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility, Driesmans noted.

Together, with support from other development partners, potentially China, this facility is expected to mobilize €7 billion ($8 billion) for green infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia, he added.

Sameer Kumar, an associate professor at the University of Malaya’s Asia-Europe Institute, says there are practical areas where the EU and China can cooperate, such as effective management of solid wastes, a particular concern as 60 percent of the ASEAN region’s population is forecast to live in urban areas by 2025.

“ASEAN would gain immensely from the long experience and technical expertise of the EU and China” in this area, Kumar added.

EU-China collaboration ‘imperative’

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vow in September to stop his country’s funding of new coal-fired power plants abroad, meanwhile, was welcomed by Brussels.

“This is a good position from which the EU and China can cooperate to fund green initiatives in ASEAN,” said Nithi Nesadurai, director and regional coordinator of Climate Action Network Southeast Asia.

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Their work would also be in parallel, Nesadurai added, with the EU and China funding different projects and different organizations.

Last week saw the formal launch of the Smart Green ASEAN Cities program, an EU-funded initiative. Beijing has engaged in similar projects through the ASEAN-China Partnership for Eco-Friendly Urban Development scheme.

Brussels has typically been reticent about criticizing the environmental policy of China, which was responsible for emitting 27 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases in 2019, according to a recent Rhodium Group report.

“Europe and China may be economic competitors, but they are not geopolitical rivals in the way that the US and China are,” said Sophia Kalantzakos, global distinguished professor in Environmental Studies and Public Policy at New York University. “Climate and biodiversity cannot and should not be sacrificed at the altar of superpower rivalries.”

EU-China collaboration is “imperative,” Kalantzakos added. With just eight years to go until 2030, a global deadline for climate action, “Southeast Asia will increasingly turn into a climate hotspot,” she said.

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