Bridging China and the United States for Climate Collaboration

By Saud Faisal Malik | Gwadar Pro Jul 17, 2023

Editor's Note: The author is Saud Faisal Malik, CEO of Daily CPEC. The article only reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily of Gwadar Pro.

John Kerry's long-awaited trip to China on July 16, undertaken in his role as US President Joe Biden's climate change envoy, has signified a crucial shift in the intricate relationship between these two global powers. It provides a ray of hope amidst the challenging dynamics that typify China-US relations. The visit bears significant weight, as both nations seek to reinvigorate stalled discussions and tackle the urgent issue of climate change. 

The crucial alliance between the United States and China is pivotal in addressing pressing global challenges. The urgency of the situation cannot be understated, as escalating temperatures, increasingly severe weather patterns, and the looming threat of an environmental catastrophe necessitate swift action. To curb the worrying trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions and pave the way for a sustainable, secure future, the success of their collaborative efforts is paramount.

However, it is critical to acknowledge the existence of underlying conflicts that might hinder the development of this crucial endeavor. Significant obstacles arising from ongoing trade disputes, fierce technological rivalry, and human rights issues need to be addressed. These complex and contentious issues cannot be brushed aside, as they could potentially overshadow the noble goal of combating climate change. The efficacy of collaborative efforts to mitigate climate change hinges on acknowledging and resolving these challenges through diplomacy and cooperation.

Both China and the United States have long been global leaders in climate change initiatives. Their substantial contributions as the largest investors in renewable energy have enabled significant milestones, including the 2015 Paris Agreement. Moreover, their individual climate goals, such as China's pledge to peak emissions before 2030 and attain carbon neutrality by 2060, alongside the US's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% by 2030, will significantly impact global temperature stabilization.

Unfortunately, collaboration on climate change has suffered from the deteriorating Sino-US relations, which are strained by a host of contentious issues. Following former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in August, 2022, Beijing was compelled to suspend climate talks with the US, exacerbating the issue despite Beijing's repeated appeals not to detach climate cooperation from the broader bilateral relationship.

Nonetheless, recent indications of stabilization in Sino-US relations, evidenced by visits from high-ranking US officials like Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, have fueled optimism for progress during John Kerry's trip to China. Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, established a fruitful working relationship during the Barack Obama administration, suggesting potential for renewed cooperation.

As the world's two largest economies, China and the United States hold a unique opportunity to join forces and address climate change. Such collaboration could have a globally positive impact, especially in a time when record-breaking temperatures are being registered worldwide. Supporting this view, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen emphasized the importance of continued cooperation on climate finance.

Although bilateral ties have been put on hold, environmental protection is still a top priority. China has already endorsed and ratified the "Paris Agreement" and has set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2060. China has also set clear objectives for 2030, such as lowering carbon intensity by over 65% from the 2005 level, increasing the capacity of solar and wind energy to 1.2 billion kilowatts, and expanding forest cover by about six billion cubic meters from the 2005 level. These promises show a shared desire to slow down environmental deterioration and advance sustainable practices.

However, these combined resources can only be effectively utilized through collaboration and increased engagement. While John Kerry's China visit marks a significant stride towards reigniting cooperation on climate change, existing tensions between China and the United States pose a substantial challenge. Despite this, the global importance of combating climate change necessitates that both countries put their differences aside and find a common path. The collaborative efforts of China and the United States in tackling climate change would not only benefit their own nations but could also have profound positive implications for the entire world.

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