​China and US can cooperate to build a climate community

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Aerial photo taken on April 26, 2020 shows power-generating windmill turbines in Weining County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. [Photo/Xinhua]

US President Joe Biden invited leaders of 40 countries, including China, Japan, and Russia to attend the Leaders Summit on Climate held from April 22 to 23. Biden hoped to use the meeting as an opportunity to show the world how countries can contribute to achieving more significant climate change goals.

Zhou Weisheng, a professor with the Policy Science Department of Ritsumeikan University in Japan, said that the Biden administration has made tackling global warming one of its priorities, showing its willingness to lead international negotiations and regain its leadership in tackling climate change.

"China and the United States can establish a community on climate change through bilateral, multilateral, and third-party cooperation in green financing, technology transfer, capacity enhancement, and emissions trading," Zhou said.

US return to the climate framework marked by uncertainties and two sides

Zhou said that the change of the American government often affects the United States' commitment to the world.

When the Kyoto Protocol was passed in 1997, the United States was the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, both that year and in cumulative amount, and thus had the most responsibility in fulfilling the emission reduction obligations laid out by the protocol. However, after the Democratic administration signed the document, it was overturned by the Republican administration that later came to power. The Paris Agreement faced the same outcome. After Obama approved the agreement, Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal. Biden later announced return to the Paris Agreement on the day of his inauguration.

"Therefore, we must be alert to the uncertainty and duality of the United States' politics. This duality is also manifested in different policies between the federal government and local governments on climate change," Zhou said. "During the Trump administration, local U.S. governments were very active in taking action against climate change."

In June 2017, more than 250 U.S. mayors passed the campaign for clean energy popularization at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Florida, which included resolutions supporting electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and city-led climate change prevention programs. It claimed that in 2035, the U.S. would purchase 100 percent renewable energy, a major step forward for climate action.

Unfortunately, on May 3, 2019, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere measured by the Mauna Loa Observatory in the U.S. state of Hawaii exceeded 415 ppm (parts per million), which is considered one of the highest readings ever in the past 800,000 years.

To achieve its goal of carbon neutrality, cutting down on its reliance on fossil fuel as its primary energy source poses a real challenge for the U.S. As such, the Biden administration plans to allocate $2 trillion for investment in key areas such as infrastructure and clean energy. In order to contain China, the Biden administration also looks to set international rules that prohibit loans for coal-led thermal power generation.

Zhou said that Biden's target for pushing for carbon-free power generation and carbon neutrality will be difficult. The Republican Party, traditionally the representative of large business owners and energy tycoons, is likely to obstruct Biden's energy plans in Congress. That's because fossil energy remains crucial to ensuring industrial production, especially now that the U.S. is looking to bolster its manufacturing industry.

U.S. proposes the "3550" plan targeting the right to speak in carbon emission reduction

China pledged to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality (net-zero emissions) by 2060, meaning that carbon dioxide emissions and removals (absorption) will balance out to zero.

Biden announced return to the Paris Agreement on the day of his inauguration. After China proposed the "3060" target, Biden proposed the "3550" target, that is, by 2035, the U.S. will achieve carbon-free power generation by using renewable energy and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Zhou said that the US carbon neutrality goal is 10 years ahead of China's, which not only shows its responsible attitude as a developed country but also that the Biden administration does not want the United States to lose the upper hand over China when it comes to talking about carbon emission reduction.

"In fact, the China-U.S. cooperation has contributed to the participation of all countries in the Paris Agreement, which can be said to be a 'successful case' of cooperation between the two countries," said Zhou. He added that even while they're both in the process of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, China and the United States should still look to protect the world's ecosystem and biodiversity and develop new energy and clean use of coal to achieve a green revival.

China and the U.S. still have cooperative space for development on technology, cities, and bilateral and multilateral fields

The two countries' investment in clean energy can boost the global economy and create new jobs. If the funds for economic recovery are properly allocated, it will help promote environmental technological progress and sustainable industrial development.

Zhou said that China and the United States can expand cooperation in three areas: the commercial promotion of hydrogen technology from coal, carbon sequestration technology, and regulation and storage technology for coal-fired power plants; the improvement of energy efficiency and strengthening the development and transfer of renewable energy technologies between the two countries; and, finally, cooperation on developing innovative green funding mechanisms.

China and the United States can also implement international inter-city cooperation projects, through different levels of government. This will strengthen the cooperation between cities of the two countries, helping them to solve common problems, share response measures, and promote further collaboration by promoting sustainable urban development.

"Although the impact of climate change is different from country to country, no country can retreat from it unscathed," Zhou said. "Despite political, military, economic, and trade conflicts, China and the United States should join hands to tackle climate change together based on shared interests, shared responsibilities, and shared risks."

Content created in partnership with Science and Technology Daily.

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