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A US-China Climate Surge

LIVERMORE, CALIFORNIA – There are numerous aspects to the United States-China relationship – some currently contentious, others cooperative. One area that presents an opportunity for cooperation is energy policy and climate change, because the two countries’ account for more than 50% of total coal consumption, while their combined share of both global greenhouse-gas emissions and the world economy is 40%.

If an international agreement to protect the world’s climate is to be reached, much greater action to reduce CO2 emissions will be needed on the part of the US, as well as  binding commitments on China’s part to reduce its carbon burden. Ultimately, though, without US-China cooperation, a global climate agreement will be held hostage. That is why a US-China standoff is a worldwide problem.

China has engaged only very reluctantly in the global effort to bring down overall emissions. The US Congress’s deep reservations regarding the passage of a climate bill has been exacerbated by China’s positions, especially on issues such as international monitoring and accountability for its emissions, which China considers an affront to its sovereignty.

But make no mistake: despite its less-than-constructive role in multilateral efforts, China is not just sitting still on energy and environmental issues. Within the next ten years, China will build 100,000 megawatts of wind-power generation plants (10 times the US amount), 50,000 MW of nuclear capacity, 10,000 MW of solar photovoltaic power, and 10,000 MW of solar thermal power.