How the Threat of Climate Change Could Draw the U.S. and China Closer
Can U.S.-China cooperation in the clean energy sector lead the world in solving climate change and transform our relationship in the process?
The relationship between the United States and China is the most important bilateral relationship in the world today, and it isn’t in great shape. Yet despite the fact that tensions are running high between the U.S. and China, cooperation is budding in the clean energy space. China and the U.S. are collaborating on a variety of bilateral projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in China and strengthen the energy efficiency relationship between the U.S. and China.
While China may be more widely known for its rampant pollution than its clean energy efforts, the progress it has made in the last few years in particular shouldn’t be overlooked. In November 2014, China’s President Xi Jinping set “around 2030” as a target for peak CO2 emissions. Now it seems that China could hit this emissions peak by 2025.
“China has the world’s most ambitious cleantech program, investing $110 billion in clean energy technologies last year, almost as much as the U.S. and the E.U. combined,” writes Mark Clifford, the executive director of the Hong Kong-based Asia Business Council and the anchor of our video conversation. “From almost nothing five years ago, China now has the world’s largest installed base of wind power and solar power. Coal use has dropped each of the past two years. Electricity generated by coal was less than 70 percent last year, down 10 percentage points from 2011. Low carbon sources such as hydro and wind have made up much of the difference and are now significant sources of electricity generation in China.”
Environmental experts agree that both nations need to speed up their efforts in order to avoid a global temperature increase of more than two degrees Celsius by the end of this century. How can what’s currently happening in the clean energy spaces in China and the U.S. be accelerated? How can our nations build on this level of coordination and use it to lower tension in other areas? Is it possible that within the next decade China and U.S. could be allies in leading the world in solving climate change?