What does the US-China row mean for climate change? | Environment

China’s decision to end cooperation with the United States on the climate crisis has caused alarm, with senior climate diplomats urging a rapid resumption of talks to help stave off further global warming.

On Friday, Beijing announced a series of measures aimed at retaliating against the United States for the “blatant provocation” of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, visiting Taiwan. China, which considers Taiwan its territory and has launched large-scale military exercises near the island, said it would stop working with the United States on climate change, as well as other key issues. .

While the extent of China’s withdrawal from climate talks remains unclear, the move threatens to derail the often fragile cooperation between the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, just months away from the crucial UN Cop27 in Egypt this fall. Experts say there is little hope of averting disastrous global warming without strong action by the United States and China, which together are responsible for around 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions .

The severance of relations came amid a summer of disasters fueled by climate change, with heat waves and record-breaking wildfires sweeping the United States and Europe, extremely high temperatures that scorched India and China and devastating floods affecting the United States, South Asia and Africa.

The United States is on the verge of passing landmark climate legislation, but collectively the world’s governments are still not doing enough to avoid violating agreed temperature goals. The goal of limiting heating to 1.5C is “on life support” with a weakening pulse, António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, warned last month.

US-China relations have always been a rollercoaster and we often see flare-ups, but if you can freeze talks, you can’t freeze climate impacts,” said Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation. climat and key architect of the climate of Paris. agreements.

It is in the interest of China and the United States to act on climate and start talking. Indeed, China recognizes its own interest in acting; he is still committed to Paris and moving forward on national promises regarding the gradual reduction of methane and coal.

The United States and China have accused each other of not doing enough to reduce global warming emissions at various times in recent years. China attacked the “selfishness” of the United States when then-President Donald Trump rolled back various environmental protections in 2017, while Joe Biden, Trump’s successor, claimed last year that the Chinese President Xi Jinping made a “big mistake” by not attending the Cop26 climate summit in Scotland.

However, the two powers achieved a breakthrough at the same talks in Glasgow in November, agreeing a surprise plan to work together “urgently” on cutting emissions. Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation, said the two countries should “accelerate a green and low-carbon transition”. John Kerry, the US climate envoy, acknowledged that nations “are not short of differences”, but that “cooperation is the only way to get this job done.” It’s about science, physics.

This climate rapprochement has helped foster collaboration between U.S. and Chinese organizations, as well as provide leadership to other countries, according to Nate Hultman, a former Kerry aide and now director of the Center for Global Sustainability at the Institute. University of Maryland.

“Collaboration between the United States and China is an important dimension of the fight against climate change, it has the potential to motivate others to do more,” Hultman said.

“The wider relationship is very complex, but both countries understand that this is not just a bilateral issue, there is a global dimension to this. This is what I hope will bring them together. Hopefully this suspension is brief and they can get back to the table as soon as possible.

Hultman said while the high-level climate talks could now be halted, other bilateral collaborations could continue, although details on that were still scarce. Whatever the situation between the United States and China, progress could still be made at the COP27 talks in Egypt, he insisted.

“It’s been tough and sometimes we’re going to stall,” Hultman said. “But COP27 will not collapse unless the United States and China iron out their differences. We will have to focus on what else can be done as an international community.

Teresa H. Sadler