Biden Admin Doubles Down On Climate Cooperation With China As Xi’s Economy Goes On Coal Binge

The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it is doubling down on efforts to work with China on climate change.

The State Department unveiled a comprehensive strategy reaffirming the administration’s commitment to taking on climate change as a global problem alongside China, even during a time of rocky relations between the two nations and clear signs that China may not be inclined to ditch fossil fuels anytime soon. The countries are on the same page regarding emissions reduction targets and strategies, cooperation through international institutions, subnational agreements and numerous other specific topics, according to the State Department.

China permitted an average of two coal-fired power plants per week in 2022, according to NPR, and their climate envoy said in September that the complete elimination of fossil fuel energy is an “unrealistic” goal. Nevertheless, the Biden administration is committed to working with China to reduce numerous classes of emissions, including methane and nitrogen oxides, both of which are associated with coal.

Both countries welcome subnational agreements focused on climate, such as those reached by Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and representatives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to the State Department. Additionally, the countries are jointly committed to turning back forest loss, reducing plastic pollution and rapidly developing green energy generation sources.

Tuesday’s agreement on climate stands as one of several tentative deals reached this week between the two countries. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to halt the production of illicit fentanyl and resume inter-military communications in California during their first meeting in a year.

Notably, the State Department announcement also alludes to a joint plan to hold “a high-level event on subnational climate action” at some point in the first half of next year.

The two countries also committed to working together to keep United Nations average temperature targets in reach in ways that “[reflect] equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances,” according to the announcement. China is technically a developing nation in the eyes of the United Nations, despite being by far the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases and its status as the world’s second-largest economy, and it appears unwilling to pay into the so-called “loss and damages” fund, a de facto international climate reparations program by which rich countries would pay developing, poorer countries for the impacts of climate change.

The “loss and damages” program is poised to be a major topic of discussion at the upcoming United Nations climate conference, which itself is another point of collaboration between Washington and Beijing, according to the announcement.

The State Department did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Nick Pope on November 15, 2023

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