Here at our CUSEF blog, we share news, updates and stories about China and the United States. We provide more than a cursory glimpse of what’s going on between the two powers - here, we offer an in-depth look into their current state of affairs.

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Meeting in the Middle: China and the U.S. Pledge to Cooperate on Climate Change

2021-05-03
China and the United States have pledged to tackle climate change together by unveiling efforts of collaboration in executing new carbon goals to offset the carbon footprint. [Photo credit: Gulf News]
China and the United States have pledged to tackle climate change together by unveiling efforts of collaboration in executing new carbon goals to offset the carbon footprint. [Photo credit: Gulf News]

People are encouraged by the future of China-U.S. relations that could very well be shaped around climate change. The common obstacle plaguing the world’s “two biggest carbon polluters” has been hailed as an area of cooperation where both China and the United States can address climate change. This could be done by engaging in solution-driven developments that unveil greener carbon goals to help mitigate the effects of pollution and emissions to offset each country’s carbon footprint.

Back in 2014, Former U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping had initially agreed to climate cooperation during a joint climate announcement that paved the way for the Paris Agreement the following year. Later in 2017, the Trump administration announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, leaving 197 countries who had formally approved the agreement. Yet, climate stayed top of mind for several U.S. politicians. During his campaign, Joe Biden declared climate as one of the pillars of his presidential promises during his first term in office. Now with Joe Biden in the White House, the administration has officially reversed course and called on China to help lead the way to a greener world.

Ahead of President Biden’s first virtual climate summit, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry visited Shanghai, where he spoke to his counterpart Xie Zhenhua and other Chinese officials. The diplomats discussed “climate matters as well as how to support developing countries pursuing low-emissions economic growth.”

China Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua (right) and U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry (left) met in Shanghai days ahead of the Climate Summit. (Photo credit: CNN)

In Shanghai, U.S. officials encouraged China to “cease building coal-fired power stations and to stop financial coal ventures abroad.” Meanwhile, Chinese representatives requested that the U.S. offer greater aid to developing nations who are interested in obtaining clean technology in their venture to adapt to climate change. After their meeting, a joint statement was released. Optimistically, it stated that “the United States and China are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that is demanded.”

On April 22-23, climate ambitions were further recognized during President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate. Attending the summit, President Xi reaffirmed China’s commitments to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, emphasizing plans to peak emissions by 2030. Many applauded Beijing’s ambitious goals and praised the country for taking steps to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels like coal.

Currently, China houses 1,058 active coal plants, accounting for more than half of the world’s capacity. Moreover, Beijing has encouraged investment in green industries like solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicles. Even policymakers have been incentivized to take into account the environment for future goals and targets. “Climate change poses pressing, formidable and long-term challenges to us all. Yet I am confident that as long as we unite in our purposes and efforts and work together with solidarity and mutual assistance, we will rise above the global climate and environment challenges and leave a clean and beautiful world to future generations,” President Xi concluded with hope.

Attending the summit, President Xi Jinping reaffirmed China’s commitments to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, emphasizing plans to peak emissions by 2030 (Photo credit: Yan Yan/Xinhua)

Similarly, the United States committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with a target to reach net-zero emission by 2050. The Biden administration proposed $15 billion investments for infrastructure projects to upgrade and install greener technologies in rural and urban areas. Additionally, Washington pledged to increase aid to developing nations by 2024, and to reduce the cost of hydrogen energy up to 80 percent. Most importantly, President Biden stressed collaboration in the climate fight. “No nation can solve this crisis on our own, as I know you all fully understand. All of us, all of us — and particularly those of us who represent the world’s largest economies — we have to step up,” he urged.

With climate at the forefront of the China-U.S. policy, both countries are heading in the right direction by setting an ambitious example for renewable incentives and climate initiatives. The future will be bright if China and the United States can continue to collaborate on climate change, global health, and cultural exchanges aimed at maintaining a peaceful and positive relationship between the two nations.

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