Beijing freezes its cooperation with Washington on global warming, but experts hope the cold spell between the world’s two biggest emitters will be temporary in the interests of humanity.
The dissolving relationship comes not long after China and the United States announced a surprise deal to strengthen climate action at the UN climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.
However, the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis to Taiwan this week has prompted Beijing to end cooperation with the United States on several key issues.
“It’s obviously of concern and cause for concern,” Alden Meyer, a senior associate at the E3G think tank, told AFP.
It is “impossible to address the climate emergency if number one and number two economies and number one and number two emitters don’t act,” he said. “And it’s always preferable that they do that in a collaborative way.”
Cooperation between the two countries is vital on all of “the world’s most pressing issues,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ press secretary told reporters on Friday.
China’s announcement in particular raises questions, including what consequences it will have for the COP27 climate conference in Egypt in November.
“What are the conditions for resuming dialogues? Are these conditions climate or geopolitical?” Greenpeace’s Li Shuo asked on Twitter.
“Is that a tactical move or is it a long-term strategic move?” Meyer asked. “Is China saying that cooperation is impossible as long as there are tensions between the US and China?”
– ‘Complete Disaster’ –
The Earth’s temperature has risen by an average of nearly 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, leading to a multiplication of heat waves, droughts, floods and storms on every continent.
But mercury could rise by 2.8 degrees Celsius by 2100, even if countries meet their commitments, according to UN climate experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Apart from the dispute between the US and China, the commitments have already been weakened by the economic crises stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which notably led to the restarting of coal-fired power plants.
IPCC author Francois Gemenne called China’s decision a “total disaster for the climate…comparable to the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement,” which aims to limit warming to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century limit – – and preferably not more than 1.5 degrees.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal, but his successor, Joe Biden, reintroduced the country into the deal in 2021.
However, experts say the temporary US withdrawal has been accompanied by setbacks in climate policy at home and abroad.
China’s announcement, on the other hand, “is certainly not a retreat from the world stage on climate issues or a rejection of climate action,” David Waskow, director of the World Resources Institute’s international climate initiative, told AFP.
Mohamed Adow, founder of energy think tank Power Shift Africa, echoed this sentiment, adding that “cutting off diplomacy doesn’t mean China is backing down on its commitments,” especially since “in many ways, China is way ahead of the US if.” it’s about taking action against climate change.”
Biden has committed to reducing U.S. emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
However, his ambitions have been thwarted by a failure to get green energy projects and climate initiatives through Congress, although some progress has been made in recent days.
For its part, China, which is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in absolute terms but lags far behind the US in terms of emissions per capita, has committed to peak emissions by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2060.
Meanwhile, even if it doesn’t cooperate with the United States, “there will be pressure on China from others, including the EU, including vulnerable countries,” Meyer said.
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