Managing divergence, rebuilding trust integral for China-US joint working group on climate change: observer
Published: Mar 22, 2021 10:19 PM


China and the US have agreed to establish a joint working group to tackle climate change via the Friday high-level strategic discussions in Alaska, an action that renewed the climate cooperation efforts between the two countries during Barak Obama's presidency.

Chinese environmental observers said that the current primary goal for the group would be managing divergence and rebuilding trust before any detailed affairs can be discussed and conducted.

The Chinese delegation to the China-US high-level strategic dialogue said that China and the US have decided to establish a joint working group on climate change.

Both China and the United States have committed to enhancing communication and cooperation in the field of climate change, according to the delegation, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

China and the US' possible cooperation on climate change has been considered by observers as pivotal to thawing the icy relationship between the two countries in many aspects over the past four years.

"Climate change is a rare place where China and the US could share a consensus currently," Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Monday.

Ma noted that the first work to do for the group is to rebuild trust, initiate effective communication and manage divergence. "Through communication, China, and the US should understand the stance of each other."

Chinese leaders have pledged to slash carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

It is not the first time that China and the US have established such a joint working group on climate change. As early as April 2013, the China-US Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) was formed under the China-US Joint Announcement on Climate Change. 

According to the announcement, under the joint working group system, China and the US have launched action initiatives on vehicles, smart grids, carbon capture, utilization and storage, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas data management, forests, and industrial boilers.

"The previous joint working group not only realized many deep research and academic discussions between China and the US on climate change but also paved the way to the signing of the Paris Agreement," Ma said. "The two countries even agreed not to attack each other on climate issues."

But Ma admitted that for the current joint working group, detailed actions will not be conducted before political level communication is conducted and a level of trust is rebuilt.

The leadership of the new joint working group is yet to be announced, but it should be noted that some key figures behind the 2013 CCWG would still be essential in the new joint working group system.

In 2013, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and then -Secretary of State John Kerry were behind the China-US Joint Announcement on Climate Change, while Xie Zhenhua, who was vice director of National Development and Reform Commission, and Todd Stern, US Special Envoy for Climate Change, served as the group leaders.

Xie has been appointed as China's special envoy on climate change, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment announced in late February. Before that, Kerry was appointed as the US climate envoy.

The choices for the group leaders would be equivalent, Ma said.