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Ahead of Glasgow summit, Sino-US tensions could shape climate future

Ahead of the Glasgow summit, there are several areas of tension between the United States and China.


Global momentum is building on the climate crisis, but action would be impossible without two countries, China and the United States, which together account for more than half of emissions – and whose governments don’t get along.

Ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, experts agree that US-China cooperation could be a catalyst for a landmark agreement on climate change – but also that Washington and Beijing do not have frosty ties, so So to speak, the end of the world.

Both countries have stepped up efforts to curb emissions, although analysts say the United Nations-backed goal of keeping the planet’s temperature rise to 1.5 °C (2.6 °F) and avoiding the worst effects of climate change The action to complete is very minor.

“If the national governments of China and the United States cannot agree on anything concrete, I think there may be room for serious action, because both countries are capable and willing to do much on their own,” said Mary. ” Nichols, who led major climate initiatives as chairman of the California Air Resources Board.

“But that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant,” she said. “Without a clear agreement, other countries will be reluctant to act.”

US President Joe Biden’s administration has described Beijing as its country’s top long-term challenger and pressed for trade from Taiwan over human rights concerns, but sought engagement on the climate.

“It’s no secret that China and the US have many differences. But on climate, cooperation – that’s the only way to be freeThe world’s current mutual suicide agreement,” US climate envoy John Kerry said in a recent speech.

‘Race to top’?

Despite the sour relations, Kerry has traveled to China twice. But on his latest visit, Foreign Minister Wang Yi issued a warning.

“It is impossible to elevate Sino-US climate cooperation above the overall atmosphere of Sino-US relations,” Wang said.

The comments raised concerns in Washington that the Biden-Kerry approach could backfire, allowing China to take advantage of the climate.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping took a major step soon after, telling the United Nations that Beijing would stop funding coal in building its overseas infrastructure, though it still remains at home as a dirty but politically sensitive form of energy. is investing.

Alex Wang, faculty co-director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, said China and the United States could engage in a “race to the top” to see who does more.

“It improves China’s global reputation as a positive actor on the climate,” Wang said.

“If leaders in China feel they are lagging, I think that will put some pressure on them to act further, and that will be a reason to disregard the voices of the fossil fuel industries or the coal industry within the country, ” They said.

“But without pressure the balance shifts in favor of slow action.”

He drew a contrast with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, whose climate skepticism meant little pressure on Beijing to tackle coal.

potentially powerful move

Nichols, who helped design California’s cap-and-trade program that creates a market with incentives to reduce emissions, said a major step forward would be for China to set a common price on carbon. Agree to add to the efforts of.

“I think, this will send an exceptionally strong signal to investors and businesses around the world,” said Nichols, who is now a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

Even before Biden’s election, California has linked its market to Quebec.

With so many areas of tension between the United States and China, a multilateral process like COP26 could be more effective than bilateral talks in any case, said Jacob Stokes, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

“Neither side wants to see it as some sort of favor in favor of the other side,” he said.

And with China already the world’s second-largest economy, Stokes said US policymakers may want to focus climate diplomacy on poorer countries.

“Is it more important to try to get concessions from Beijing or to strive for the expansion of clean energy to the rest of the developing world that still has a lot of energy-intensive development to do?”

(This story has not been edited by NB staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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