The frozen cooperation between the United States and China presents a new snag in global warming

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United Nations (United States) (AFP) – Beijing is freezing its cooperation with Washington on global warming, but experts hope that, for the good of humanity, the cold snap between the world’s two biggest emitters is only temporary.

The collapsing relationship comes shortly after China and the United States announced a surprise deal to step up climate action at the UN’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in 2021.

The visit of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan this week, however, prompted Beijing to end its cooperation with the United States on several key issues.

“It’s obviously disturbing and causes concern,” Alden Meyer, senior partner at think tank E3G, told AFP.

It is “impossible to address the climate emergency if the world’s number one and number two economies and number one and number two emitters do not act”, he said. “And it’s always best that they do it collaboratively.”

Cooperation between the two countries is essential on all “the world’s most pressing problems”, the press secretary to the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, told reporters on Friday.

Above all, China’s announcement raises questions, including what the implications will be for the COP27 climate conference in Egypt in November.

“What are the conditions for reopening the dialogues? Are these conditions climatic or geopolitical?” Greenpeace’s Li Shuo asked on Twitter.

“Is this a tactical move or is this a longer term strategic move?” Meyer asks. “Is China saying that cooperation is impossible as long as there are tensions between the United States and China?

– ‘Total disaster’ –

The Earth’s temperature has risen by an average of nearly 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with heat waves, droughts, floods and storms on all continents.

However, mercury could rise by 2.8 degrees Celsius by 2100 even if countries meet their commitments, according to United Nations climate experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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Apart from the American-Chinese quarrel, the commitments have already been weakened by the economic crises resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which in particular led to the revival of coal-fired power plants.

IPCC author Francois Gemenne called China’s decision “a total disaster for the climate…comparable to the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement”, which aims to limit end-of-the-century warming well into the future. below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – – and preferably not above 1.5 degrees.

Former President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal, but his successor Joe Biden brought the country back to the deal in 2021.

The temporary U.S. withdrawal has nonetheless been accompanied by a rollback on domestic and foreign climate policy, experts say.

China’s announcement, on the other hand, is “certainly not a retreat from the global stage on climate issues or a rejection of climate action”, David Waskow, director of the initiative, told AFP. World Resources Institute’s International Climate Report.

Mohamed Adow, founder of energy think tank Power Shift Africa, echoed that sentiment, adding that “breaking down diplomacy does not mean China is backtracking on its commitments,” especially since, ” in many ways, China is way ahead of the United States when it comes to taking action on climate change.”

Biden has pledged to reduce U.S. emissions by 50-52% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

But his ambitions have been thwarted by his failure to push green energy projects and climate initiatives through Congress, although progress has been made in recent days.

For its part, China, which is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in absolute value but far behind the United States in emissions per capita, has committed to reaching a peak in emissions in 2030 and carbon neutrality. in 2060.

Meanwhile, even if it doesn’t cooperate with the United States, “there will be pressure on China from others, including the EU, including vulnerable countries,” Meyer said.

Teresa H. Sadler