The population in six European countries have urged their governments to prioritise climate change over trade in government policy towards China.
Think tank E3G and pollsters YouGov undertook the survey in Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Italy, and the United Kingdom, earlier this month with respondents.
Placing climate change as foreign policy priority towards China, alongside promoting human rights and working on a global response to COVID-19.
Despite predominantly negative views of China in Denmark, France, Germany and the UK, the public feel that climate change should be a high priority for their country’s engagement with China, according to the survey.
When asked about their country’s foreign policy towards China, a greater proportion rated climate change as being a very or fairly high priority than any other issue in France and Italy (72% and 84%, respectively). Climate change had the second highest proportion of respondents rate it as being a very or fairly high priority compared to other issues in Germany, Denmark and Poland.
“The public has a strong preference for prioritising human rights and democracy as well as climate change in the country’s foreign policy towards China,” added the study. “In contrast, forging new trade agreements with China is the issue that respondents felt should be of lower priority, receiving the least positive responses in four of the six countries (41% said it should be a very high or fairly high priority in France, 64% in Italy, 61% in the UK and 67% in Poland).
Nick Mabey, Chief Executive of E3G said: “This polling provides clear evidence that despite the emerging tensions between the EU and China, most Europeans believe that climate should be one of the top priorities in their country’s foreign policy agenda towards China, alongside with concerns over human rights and developing a global COVID-19 response.”
The study found with the exception of Italy, a majority (at least 53%) are not confident that the Chinese government will be able to meet its climate target.
To achieve its targets, a large majority of the public believe that it is important for China to stop building new coal power plants at home (74% to 88% of responses) and stop financing coal power plants overseas (70% to 83% of responses).
The public also think that for China to fulfil its climate goal, it is important it stop deforestation in its supply chain overseas (69% to 88% of responses).
Byford Tsang, Senior Policy Adviser of E3G said: While the European public thinks climate diplomacy with China is important, they also expect China to deliver more to fulfil its ambitious climate goals, Byford Tsang, Senior Policy Adviser of E3G said. “The European Union, Member States and the UK government should continue engagement with China on implementing short term climate action, including a moratorium on the construction of coal power plants at home and overseas.”
Jennifer Tollmann, Senior Policy Adviser of E3G added: “The polling shows the challenge for governments to balance trade, economic, human rights and climate agenda in their relations with China. But what’s clear is that significantly more Europeans give top priority to climate than to trade when it comes to their governments’ relations with China.”