Washington/Shanghai: After several years of dismissing global action to fight climate change, U.S. leadership was formally challenged this week by China announcing bold new climate pledges.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has pledged to reinvigorate U.S. climate leadership if he wins the Nov. 3 election against incumbent President Donald Trump.
Re-establishing that leadership role, however, may not be so easy, according to U.S. and Chinese diplomats involved in past climate negotiations.
The 2015 Paris Agreement hinged on a pact between China and the United States, the world’s two biggest emitters, to cooperate on climate action. Now, the United States under Trump is poised to exit the treaty on Nov. 4, the day after the election.
And the once-careful negotiations between Washington and Beijing have unravelled to what experts say is the worst level in years. Under Trump, the United States has launched a trade war against China and blamed Beijing for the COVID-19 pandemic, while China has cracked down on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, imprisoned Uighurs in Xinjiang and escalated tensions in the South China Sea.
This week, the situation got even trickier as China’s President Xi Jinping announced plans to be carbon neutral by 2060 and urged the world to step up to the challenge.
Making global climate progress without reviving the U.S.-China relationship would be impossible, according to former U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern and other key figures behind the Paris agreement.
China produces 29% of global emissions - more than the EU and United States combined. Taken together, the three regions account for just over half of global carbon dioxide emissions.