BRUSSELS - The European Union and China are questioning each other's commitment to fighting climate change, following the failure of climate talks by the Group of 20 (G20) last week.
At the end of last week's negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, the 20 governments failed to agree a joint communique on climate change. Diplomatic sources had said some countries, including China, were unhappy with language that had already been agreed and enshrined in past deals.
The EU's climate change chief on Monday accused "the biggest emitter on this planet" – a reference to China – of attempting to backtrack on the Glasgow Climate Pact, which capped two weeks of U.N. negotiations in November.
"Some of the very, very big players on this planet are trying to roll back from what they had agreed in Glasgow," Frans Timmermans told a meeting in Rotterdam on climate adaptation in Africa.
"And some of them, even the biggest emitter on this planet, try and hide behind developing countries in using arguments that I think, at some point, are no longer viable," said Timmermans, who is executive vice president of the European Commission.
China is responsible for about 30% of annual emissions, making it the world's biggest emitter today while the United States is second and the EU third. The United States, however, is the biggest emitter historically.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs rebuffed the accusation, and said Beijing demanded an "accurate" interpretation of past climate deals.
The 2015 Paris Agreement, for example, committed wealthy countries – whose emissions are largely responsible for global warming – to cutting carbon dioxide emissions fastest while also supporting developing countries in following suit. Under the Paris deal, China is defined as a developing country.
"As a developing country itself, China has always stood by the vast number of developing countries and firmly safeguarded their common interests," a spokesperson from the Chinese ministry said.
The failure by rich nations to deliver promised climate finance has raised tensions in global climate negotiations. The 27-country EU is the biggest provider of climate finance, according to OECD data.
China has pledged to peak emissions by 2030 – a target which could see its emissions increase in the near term as it opens new coal plants. Beijing has resisted calls from Europe to revise this goal to cut emissions faster.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said China's low-carbon transition remained "firm", and pointed to European countries burning more coal as they race to replace Russian gas.
"The green and low-carbon process is now encountering countercurrents," the ministry said, referring to European coal use.
European policymakers have said the uptick in coal is a temporary measure, and will not thwart climate targets. The EU has fixed into law its target to cut net emissions 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels and David Stanway in Shanghai; Editing by Katy Daigle and Sandra Maler)