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China and the US: United on climate action, but shared on responsibility

China and the United States may agree on the need to work together to combat climate change, but they are still far from each other as to the burden each should bear. US President Joe Biden spoke this week at the US-hosted Earth Day Summit that his country is not the only major polluter and that “the world’s largest economies” need to be strengthened. But his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping said nations need to be credible instead of constantly changing their climate policies, and they need to help developing countries cope with the crisis. Chinese officials also said climate change should not be used as a geopolitical map to expand influence and that the big nations still have not provided enough aid to poor countries. Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from all over the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform for curated content with explanations, FAQs, analysis and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. As he wrapped up the two-day summit on Friday, Biden celebrated America’s return to global climate leadership – a role he had relinquished to China’s advantage during the Donald Trump administration – and greeted Russia while making explicit no mention of China. President Vladimir Putin has proposed working together on removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Global funds to invest trillions in investments in climate action “Putin and I disagree, but he’s talking about how to get carbon out of space,” said Biden. “The United States looks forward to working with Russia and other countries.” Differences between Beijing and Washington have raised questions about how far the two nations can go together on climate change. “The desire of developed countries to contribute more was China’s consistent position, not one China has now chosen. Since the atmosphere between China and the US is currently not good, especially as the US is preparing a strategic competition law for China domestically, this has left the future climate cooperation between the two countries with great uncertainty, ”said Wei Zongyou, professor at the Center of American Studies from Fudan University. To show the US that it is committed to cementing its leadership role on climate, Biden told 40 leaders from six continents on Thursday that the US would cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2005, along with other measures that could affect new jobs. Technologies and industries. But he said the US was less than 15 percent of global emissions, and other nations had to participate. Biden did not name China, which was responsible for 28 percent of global carbon emissions. “No nation can solve this crisis on its own, as I know you all understand everything. All of us, all of us – and especially those of us who represent the world’s largest economies – need to be strengthened, ”he said. Climate Summit “Must Not Change Forecast” for US-China Relations Xi did not offer any new concrete commitments, saying China will strictly control and limit coal-fired power plants for the next five years. In his speech, he made no direct reference to the US, but added that climate policy should be consistent – a remark seen as an expression of the previous Trump administration’s plan to get out of the Paris climate agreement. “In this process we have to join our hands and not point fingers at each other. we have to maintain continuity, not easily reverse course; and we have to keep commitments and not keep promises, ”he said. He said there should be different responsibilities between nations and more aid to developing countries. “The industrialized countries have to increase their climatic ambitions and measures. At the same time, they must make concrete efforts to help developing countries strengthen their capacities and resilience to climate change, support them with funding, technology and capacity building, and not create green barriers to trade to help developing countries make the transition accelerate green and low carbon development, ”he said. Chinese officials defended Xi’s lack of concrete commitments. “We are at a different stage of development than the US and Europe,” said Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy on climate change. He said the 30 years it took China to achieve carbon neutrality were already shorter than the 40-60 years it took the US and European nations. China is committed to its climate goals, even though it is facing “immense difficulties” in restructuring its economy, he added. Xie said a goal set in 2009 for rich countries to allocate $ 100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries cope with climate change has not been achieved. In an obvious stab at the US, Ma Zhaoxu, deputy foreign minister, said Xi’s participation demonstrated China’s leadership and commitment to climate change. “China never makes geopolitical efforts and has no interest in playing the climate map. Climate change should not be used as a chip for geopolitical struggles or as an excuse to attack others or put up trade barriers, ”he said. Xie said Beijing and Washington had resumed dialogue on climate, including several rounds of video conferencing with the President’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, John Kerry, since February, and that a joint working group on climate change could be set up in the near future. Xie added that China and the US have agreed to announce their carbon neutral plans ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November. Ren Xiao, director of the Chinese Foreign Policy Center at Fudan University in Shanghai, said divisions between China and the US – the world’s two largest emitters – on issues like climate are affecting their ability to work together on climate change. “The policy of the Chinese side has been more consistent, but the US has been turning its reversals back and forth more. Now it depends more on whether the US has the willpower and actually takes action,” he said. China and the US should “use the United Nations to build global consensus on climate change.” Ren said that while China had not made any new climate pledges, it had made commitments beforehand. “Right now the problem is that the US is not doing enough,” he said. “China’s existing climate goals are not low and it will be good if China can achieve them.” Su Wei, deputy secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission, said China is working on a plan to achieve the highest carbon consumption by 2030, including restructuring the coal, petrochemical, electricity, steel, construction, transportation and agriculture sectors. But Su said continued reliance on coal in the years to come is “inevitable” as the country needs coal for stable electricity. “We need a stable power supply and there are no other options. We will need coal in the near future, but we will increase the share of renewable energy, ”he said. Additional coverage by Mark MagnierMore from the South China Morning Post: What can China bring to the climate summit table? The European Union agrees to become climate neutral by 2050 before the Biden climate summit Will we achieve the Paris climate targets if the rich are still spending money? The richest 1 percent of the world cause more emissions than the poorest 50 percent. This article China and the US: United on Climate Action, Shared on Responsibility, first appeared in the South China Morning Post. For the latest news from the South China Morning Post, download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.