Continue interactions with US to fight climate change
What will be Donald Trump’s impact on Sino-US cooperation on climate change after he is sworn in asUS president in January?
According to the Paris climate change agreement, theUS has promised to cut its greenhouse gas emission by 17 percent by 2020 and 26 to 28 percent by 2025 compared with the 2005 level. That target cannot be realized unless theUS honors its commitment by taking appropriate action.
To meet its promise, theUS has to transform its power plants, currently the largest greenhouse gas emitters, into green sources of energy. But that seems unlikely, because theUS Supreme Court has decided to postpone the move.
Nevertheless, certainUS states and industries have already started taking measures to reduce emissions, and their policies and actions might in turn influence theUS federal government’s eventual decision. For example, the percentage of coal-generated electricity in theUS’ power industry mix dropped from about 50 percent in 2008 to 33 percent in 2015 thanks to the “shale gas revolution”. And thermal plants were using greener power-generating methods. Therefore, there is reason to be optimistic.
Besides, some experts say that almost allUS presidential candidates play the “China-card” during the election campaign, yet after entering office, they maintain good relations with China because it is in the best interest of Washington.
It is uncertain whether Trump will act on what he said during his campaign— of taking action against China if he won the presidency. But whether or not Trump honors the Barack Obama administration’s promise to fight climate change on a priority basis, Beijing has to continue its dia- logue and interactions with Washington on the issue, because by pushing joint efforts forward, it will serve the common interests of all as well as increase its global influence.
Therefore, China should continue its global multilateral climate governance and stick to the Beijing-Washington cooperative framework. Fighting climate change is important on multilateral platforms, not least because China has gained a leadership status on the issue. It’s time China made good use of that leadership and strengthened global cooperation.
Besides, if the China-US cooperative mechanism comes to a halt, China should encourage cooperation at the local governmental level and through unofficial channels. For the past several years, Chinese and US cities have forged cooperative relationships to fight climate change, and the two countries have made joint statements on climate change. China should make better use of such cooperative mechanisms to deepen China-US cooperation.
In other words, whatever policy the incoming Trump administration adopts, China can always deepen its cooperation with the US to fight climate change because that will not only serve the interests of both sides, but also expand Beijing’s global influence.
The author is director of International Cooperation Department in National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation.
For Asia-Pacific countries, especially Japan and the Republic of Korea, they still don’t know what to expect from the next US administration as Trump has said during the presidential campaign thatWashington’s allies in the region must do more to defend themselves and contribute more to maintain US military presence in their territories.
Yet the US’ strategic contraction globally will not be as bad as some fear. On the contrary, it could help right the wrongs the US has done in recent years in its “war on terror” and military maneuverings in the Asia-Pacific.
The Obama administration’s reluctance to actively fight terrorists and extremists, especially the Islamic State terrorist group in theMiddle East, has been widely criticized. And theUS’ interference policy in the region, coupled with the covert arming of rebel forces to orchestrate a regime change in countries like Libya and Syria, is largely to blame for the rise in terrorism and extremism in the region. Hence, the incoming Trump administration should adopt a harder line on terrorism and clean up the mess theUS has helped create in the Middle East.
In the Asia-Pacific, Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy, a move widely seen as intended to contain China’s rise, has not only soured relations with China but also heightened tensions in the South China Sea, asWashington has used the maritime disputes between China and some Southeast Asian countries to beef up its military presence in the region.
TheUS is not a party to any of the South China Sea disputes, and its interference has harmed regional cooperation between the Association of Southeast AsianNations and China and other regional partners.
Worse, countries in the region were forced to take sides in the disputes and thus be distracted from far more important issues of regional development and integration. Had the South China Sea and East China Sea remained peaceful, countries in the region could have devoted more energy into translating the regional development blueprint into action and thus contributing more to global economic recovery.
The tensions created by the Obama administration over the South China Sea disputes have served nobody’s interests. And the developments of the past years show the “pivot toAsia” strategy has been counterproductive, even in servingUS interests.
The Philippines, a closeWashington ally and used by the US to provoke China over maritime disputes, has made a U-turn by choosing to improve ties with China and distancing itself from the US.
As China and the US both have high stakes in the peaceful development of the Asia- Pacific, they ought to cooperate with, rather than confront, each other to build peace and stability in the region. The incoming Trump administration should make the right choice.