With a new round of the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Bonn, Germany, until November 17, and with US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to China, many people feel nostalgic about those days when Beijing and Washington took the lead in pushing for, and formally signing, the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Together, they showed a good example of big powers joining hands to meet global challenges.
So it is encouraging to hear the rising voices calling for China and the United States to ramp up cooperation on climate change despite Trump’s decision in June to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and focus instead on bolstering America’s fossil fuel industry.
In Bonn, government delegates and experts are working on a “rule book” for the Paris Agreement, which seeks to end the fossil fuel era in the second half of the century by shifting the world economy to such cleaner energy as wind and solar power, according to a Reuters report.
A week before the crucial Bonn conference, China’s chief climate change negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, expressed hope that Washington would stay in the Paris accord and contribute to the global agenda on fighting climate change. China has made it clear that it’s willing to deepen its collaboration with the US in areas such as clean energy, energy and resource conservation, and carbon capture and storage, said Xie, who is attending the Bonn meeting.
David Dollar, senior fellow at John L Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, told me in an interview that the ballast in Sino-US relations is their cooperation on “global public goods”, the most important of which are free trade and climate change. Without successful cooperation on issues that matter to the global public, bilateral ties are likely to become more volatile and bounce back and forth on trivialities, Dollar said.
And last week, Cui Tiankai, Beijing’s top envoy in Washington, said that many international community members have pinned their hopes on the US and China playing their due parts in addressing global challenges.
It is interesting to note that on November 3, the day when Trump left for his 12-day trip to Asia, a major US government report affirmed that global warming is real and is “extremely likely” caused by human activities – a stark contrast with Trump’s position on climate change.
Also noteworthy is the passion of US businesses and many states in pursuing green development and expanding cooperation with China, which will lead to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
Of the 29 company CEOs accompanying Trump on his visit to China, 10 are engaged in liquefied natural gas (LNG) or other energy fields, raising the prospect of deals on LNG which causes less pollution than coal, according to a Xinhua report.
Jerry Brown, governor of California, which is the largest economy among US states, champions sub-national cooperation in climate change. He visited China in early June to sign agreements with the Ministry of Science and Technology and two provincial governments to work together on reducing emissions.
UN Environment Programme Executive Director Erik Solheim said recently: “In all likelihood, the United States of America will live up to its Paris commitment, not because of the White House, but because of the private sector… All the big American companies are dedicated to go in the green direction.”
That coincides with the trend in China, where green development was highlighted at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which drew up a blueprint for the country’s economic growth in the next five years. The matched trends hopefully mean a broad prospect of climate change cooperation between China, the US and the rest of the world.
The author is deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily USA.