China Daily Global Edition (USA)
An opportunity to advance shared climate ambition
The Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that President Xi Jinping has accepted US President Joe Biden’s invitation to attend the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate. The announcement came after John Kerry, Biden’s special climate envoy, wrapped up his visit to China, with the two sides releasing a joint statement indicating they are committed to working together to tackle the climate crisis. The US administration will have let out a sigh of relief at the last-minute announcement, because if one of the most resolute emissions cutters in the world and the largest emitter did not participate in the meeting the event would not have matched its ambition.
By convening the summit, the Biden administration is intent on demonstrating that not only has the United States returned to the climate diplomacy that its predecessor abandoned — a feckless move that angered the world — but also its ambition to restore the country’s leadership credentials on what is the most exigent of global challenges.
However, to what extent it can achieve that aim will be determined by the US administration’s willingness to work with others. No matter how ambitious the emissions reduction goal the US announces at the summit, it will not entitle it to dictate the climate actions of others. It should adhere to the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, and respective capabilities.
As such, and given the gravity of the climate crisis, the Biden administration should ensure exchanges are based on an equal footing and mutual respect, and hold a pragmatic attitude toward the summit so that it can achieve its aim of galvanizing efforts to keep the global temperature rise below the 1.5 C threshold.
As President Xi has said, responding to climate change is the common cause of all humanity, it should not be a bargaining chip for geopolitics. Countries need to close ranks and foster a new architecture of climate governance if the world is to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
His virtual climate summit with his French and German counterparts on Friday, and his remarks at the Climate Ambition Summit of the United Nations in December, provide some foreknowledge that he will reaffirm at the summit China’s resolve to complete the world’s largest reduction in carbon emissions intensity and realize carbon neutrality from carbon peaking in the shortest time in history.
It is to be hoped that on their part, since almost all the downstream industries of the global value chains are located in the developing and least-developed countries, the developed countries will take the occasion as the opportunity to scale up financial, technological and capacity building support for the Global South.
As the convener of the summit, the onus is on the US to ensure it is more than just a talking shop. The clock is ticking on climate change and it needs to be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands. The world is running out of time to do what it knows needs to be done.