中美关系影响气候合作 - 2023-07-27


Following US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's visits to China, US Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry visited China from July 16 to 19, in an attempt to promote bilateral climate cooperation.

Climate change is undoubtedly a core issue in the existing international order, not only because the world today faces an unprecedented climate crisis, but also because climate governance is extending from emissions reduction and adaption to a wider range of areas including economy, technologies and international rules.

Against such a backdrop, whether China and the United States, the world's two biggest economies and largest greenhouse gas emitters, can cooperate closely on climate action determines whether humanity would be able to defend the bottom line as crisis worsens.

Regrettably, since taking office, the Joe Biden administration has been integrating climate governance-related issues into the US' strategies with an a la carte approach, dividing the related issues into several domains, although the climate issue is within the "cooperation" category in the "three Cs" (competition, confrontation and cooperation).

Kerry's visit to China mainly focused on methane emissions, the use of coal, climate finance and curbing deforestation. He said that climate change was a "universal threat" that should be handled separately from broader diplomatic issues between China and the US.This runs counter to the requirements of dealing with such a systematic problem as climate change.

To start with, the US has an increasingly strong desire to demand China shoulder emissions reduction responsibility as a developed nation. On June 8, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved the so-called Ending China's Developing Nation Status Act, demanding the secretary of state use all means to elevate China to "developed country "status.

Prior to Kerry's visit to China, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that China "should not be able to hide behind any kind of claim that they're a developing nation "and that China should be pressured to "take significant, substantial action" in reducing emissions and fight climate change. "What we're trying to achieve now is really to establish some stability, if we can in the relationship, without conceding anything," Kerry said, with regard to the US' strategic goal of changing China's status as a developing nation. That implies Kerry's visit to China is only for talking about specific issues related to climate governance, rather than for discussing the future direction of bilateral relations.

Second, in essence, the US' attempt to carry out climate cooperation with China reflects its strategic approach to China. The Biden administration is highly sensitive to the US' rights and responsibilities in climate governance, trying to use its hegemonic position to coerce China to accept US-made rules and the US' environmental cognition.

Kerry's China trip attempted to urge China to partner with the US to cut methane emissions and put China under the moral burden of being irresponsible if it refuses to commit to targets on cutting methane emissions. The Biden administration has also used the "net-zero "discourse to pursue public opinion dominance through summits, forums and media reports. For instance, during the COP 27 negotiations, the US demanded China phase out coal at a quicker pace, citing the 2035 net-zero electricity pledges in China-US Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s. The US also accused fossil fuel programs under the Belt and Road Initiative of causing carbon leakages, transferring pollution and damaging ecosystems and natural resources along the routes.

Climate cooperation should be based on extensive consultation on an equal footing for win-win results, instead of a framework where the US sets the rules and China acts as an outlier. Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasized that China will "resolutely attain the carbon peaking and neutrality goals promised, but we must make the decisions on our own when it comes to the path, methods, pace and intensity to achieve them, and no one should expect to exert influence on us".

Last, climate governance has been deeply integrated into the economy, technology and international rules, a reflection of the in-depth transformation of the international order. Kerry's China trip focused on reducing methane emissions, limiting coal use and curbing deforestation, the success of which depends on the low-carbon industry. Unfortunately, the US has prioritized the low-carbon industry in its "decoupling" and "de-risking "strategies. To prevent China's clean energy products and services from entering the US market, the US is ruling out solar panel imports from China. The same goes for electric vehicles. The US has raised its tariffs on Chinese new energy vehicles and parts to 27.5 percent. In 2022, the US passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a package of policies aimed at promoting localization of NEVs, critical minerals and power generation facilities. Also, the US is initiating a "green agenda" for its "de-risking" strategy, such as by building US-European Union, US-India, US-Japan, US-South Korea and US-Japan-India-Australia strategic clean energy partnerships, launching a green shipping corridor network and clean hydrogen partnerships, and advocating so-called onshore outsourcing, nearshore outsourcing and outsourcing to friendly nations in the US, North America and Asia. The ultimate goal of these moves is to impede China's technological innovation in clean energy and the rise of its own low-carbon industry.

In a nutshell, Kerry's recent China visit was aimed at gaining a stronger voice for the US at the COP 28 in such topics as reducing coal-fired power generation and reducing methane emissions, and more importantly, at further consolidating China's role as an outliner rather than a maker in overarching climate governance.

The fact that the world is offtrack to fight climate change requires both China and the US to leverage their respective advantages and strengths and closely cooperate with each other. From this stand the US needs to give China enough respect and space as bilateral relations have to be elevated to a strategic height. However, the Biden administration refuses to make any substantive concession, in an attempt to solve the climate crisis while at the same time maintaining its hegemony and preventing the transformation of the international order. The consequence is that bilateral climate cooperation will gradually lose momentum and the content of such cooperation will become increasingly fragmented.

The author is Tang Wei, who is an associate research fellow with the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Wang Mengxue is an assistant research fellow with the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The authors contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

Source: China Daily





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