China-US climate cooperation requires mutual respect, amicable political environment
Published: Jul 16, 2023 09:41 PM
John Kerry Photo:VCG

John Kerry Photo:VCG

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry kicked off his visit to China on Sunday. This marks the third visit by a senior official from the Biden administration to China in the past month and highlights the recent resumption of high-level China-US engagements. Earlier on Monday, Kerry met China's special envoy for climate change, Xie Zhenhua, and they held a 4-hour talk.

Climate change is a key diplomatic priority for the Biden administration, and seeking cooperation with China on this issue is of great importance for the US. Currently, the world is facing an exceptionally severe challenge posed by climate change, and both China and the US have irreplaceable roles to play in global climate governance. Whether the two sides can achieve significant cooperation in addressing climate change is of great concern to the international community.

During his visit, Kerry aims to engage with China on addressing the climate crisis, including with respect to increasing implementation and ambition and promoting a successful COP28. This climate conference is scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates at the end of this year, and the ability of China and the US to reach a consensus will greatly impact its outcome. The Biden administration sees achieving success at this conference as a significant diplomatic achievement, which necessitates cooperation with China due to its crucial role in global climate change issues.

It's believed Kerry would urge China to take on more climate responsibilities. The US claims that China is currently a major emitter of carbon emissions and should reduce its emissions as soon as possible. It urges China to implement methane reduction plans and increase the use of clean energy. Considering that the US Congress no longer recognizes China as a developing country, it is inevitable that China will be required to take on more international responsibilities in issues such as climate change and even be held to the standards of developed countries. 

However, the cooperation between China and the US in clean energy technology in response to climate change has been difficult to restore due to the overall deterioration of the China-US relationship. Nonetheless, clean energy technology cooperation between China and the US is very important for addressing climate change and should be an integral part of their collaboration in this regard.

Climate change is currently a global challenge that requires joint efforts from the international community. If both China and the US, the two major powers, can move in the same direction, it will have a very positive impact on addressing climate change. It is difficult for either China or the US to effectively address this important issue without the cooperation. As the largest developed and developing countries, China and the US should implement their common but differentiated responsibilities in addressing climate change, which will not only help promote the effective resolution of global climate change issues but also unleash the positive effects of great power coordination.

However, looking back at the history of China-US cooperation on climate change, it can be said to have been full of twists and turns. The overall fluctuation of the China-US relationship has had a significant impact on cooperation in the field of climate change. Currently, the US has repeatedly called for strengthened cooperation with China in the field of climate change. It demands that China assume more climate responsibilities and cooperate with the US in global climate diplomacy. On the other hand, the US has continuously suppressed China in areas such as trade and technology. It has deliberately excluded cooperation with China in clean energy technology and has been motivated by protectionism to remove Chinese clean energy products from its markets. The basic principle of international cooperation should be mutually beneficial. The US cannot expect China to assume more climate responsibilities on the one hand and harshly suppress China on the other in areas such as trade and technology.

China has its own perspective on the issue of climate change. The country has announced that it will not disregard its international responsibilities in addressing this global challenge. China also acknowledges the significance of collaborating with the US in the field of climate change, as it aligns with the common interests of both nations and even the world. However, China-US climate cooperation should reflect mutual respect and a win-win approach, and sustainable climate cooperation can only be achieved in a more amicable political environment.

The author is director of the International Security Study Center at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn