During a working visit to Beijing, Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard held talks with the vice president and several ministers in the Chinese government for on Wednesday and Thursday. Ms Leuthard and Transport Minister Yang Chuantang agreed on closer cooperation to improve road safety. Today in the metropolis of Shenzhen in the south of the country, the vice president of the Federal Council and head of DETEC was briefed on China’s emissions trading scheme.
The meeting with Vice President Li Yuanchao served to strengthen longstanding relations between Switzerland and China. Ms Leuthard underlined the close economic ties between the two countries, which have continued to increase with the bilateral free trade agreement. She noted that Switzerland was very satisfied with the success of the agreement, which came into force in July 2014. Relations between the two countries will be further strengthened thanks to the innovative strategic partnership agreed in the spring, which will be rolled out by sector. Federal Councillor praised the positive role played by China - the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gasses - in concluding the Paris climate agreement in December 2015. Vice President Li, for his part, praised cooperation between the two countries in the financial sector. The talks also addressed China's priorities for its G20 presidency this year. Switzerland will attend the G20 Finance Track at China's invitation.
Ms Leuthard also met with with Jin Liqun, the president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, where talks covered the structure of the newly founded regional development bank, of which both China and Switzerland are members. The main task of the AIIB is to support financially weaker member states by driving development through investment in energy and transport infrastructure.
The programme also included a meeting with senior representatives from China's National Energy Authority. China is reducing the high share of coal in its energy supply by turning to gas and nuclear power, as well as renewable energies such as hydropower, wind and solar power so as to cut back on CO2 emissions and air pollution. Given Switzerland's extensive know-how in the areas of energy efficiency and storage, Ms Leuthard suggested extending bilateral cooperation in the field of energy.
In her discussion with the housing and urban-rural development minister, Chen Zhenggao, Ms Leuthard discussed environmentally sustainable methods of construction, which make economical use of land. Here too she referred to Switzerland's longstanding experience of re-using building material to reduce costs: "Making efficient use of resources is worthwhile", stressed the head of DETEC. Swiss technology and expertise are also being employed in the Sino-Swiss ‘low carbon cities' project, which aims to lower CO2 emissions in Chinese cities.
Focus in both countries on investing in smart transport infrastructure
During her meeting with Transport Minister Yang Chuantang, Ms Leuthard discussed the increase in mobility. Both ministers stressed the need to invest in efficient and environmentally friendly transport infrastructure. The use of modern communications technologies and management systems should be encouraged to achieve this. A further topic of discussion was the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the transport sector signed between Switzerland and China in May 2013, the specific details of which should now be drawn up. Both parties have agreed to intensify the exchange of information on road safety. While Switzerland has been able to significantly reduce the number of victims of road traffic accidents, further measures are needed in China. To discuss these and other transport policy issues Ms Leuthard invited Minister Yang to Switzerland.
Ms Leuthard also attended a high-level meeting of experts on water management with the Chinese minister of water resources, Chen Lei. Switzerland and China have enjoyed bilateral cooperation in this field for around fifteen years - through projects to improve flood protection - focusing in particular on the impact of climate change on water resources. Ms Leuthard pointed out that faced with a changing climate we will have to learn to cope with more frequent extreme weather events in the future. China and Switzerland are particularly affected by climate change because of their topography and geographical location. The two countries will continue to cooperate by holding meetings of experts and working on joint projects for sustainable water management and the prevention of natural hazards.
Emissions trading as a tool for protecting the climate
In the southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen, Ms Leuthard was briefed on the local emissions trading scheme (ETS) - one of seven pilot schemes launched in 2011 - which shares basic similarities with the schemes used in Switzerland and the EU. Talks with business representatives showed that emissions trading schemes are a practical tool for businesses. Meeting emissions targets remains a challenge however. China is planning to introduce a national emissions trading scheme from 2017. Federal Councillor Leuthard stressed that Switzerland and China could learn from one another during the ETS implementation phase. The question of linking the national ETS of both countries could be considered as a possible goal for the period after 2020. The trade in emissions rights is an important aspect of international climate protection policy.
In Shenzen, Ms Leuthard met for talks with the government of Guangdong Province. The province generates 11 per cent of China's GDP. The programme included a visit to a model of Qianhai, a future district of Shenzen, which is to be built applying the principles of sustainable development. At the end of her trip, Ms Leuthard met with local representatives from the private sector and the research community in Hong Kong to discuss challenges in the fields of environment, energy and transport.
Ms Leuthard travelled to China at the invitation of the Water Resources Ministry. She was accompanied by a number of representatives from the Swiss energy and environmental sectors.