The Obama presidency saw a new era of U.S.-China climate diplomacy, with the two countries making unprecedented commitments to cut down on emissions and implement thorough reform. To achieve these goals, the United States and China have been working on coordinating their efforts and investing in appropriate policies.
The United States made significant efforts to push forward the issue of climate change as a priority for world leaders. This was partially made possible through the established National Adaptation Plans (NAP) Global Network, which increases accessibility to satellite climate data usage. This network aids developing countries in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the United States has itself provided $13 million for the NAP Global Network.
There has been a great emphasis on green policies in developing countries as well. From 2010 to 2015, the United States has given over $2.5 billion in aid exclusively to developing countries to impose climate change reform measures. This support has spanned over many regions, from South America to Far East Asia. In Africa, the U.S. created tailored programs including ADAPT Africa and the Malawi Resilience Program to aid African countries in following through agreements made during COP21 in Paris. The Malawi Resilience Program, for example, aims to address food shortages caused by El Niño and focuses on long-term national plans to increase productive household and community assets.
In Asia, USAID has invested in several countries’ plans to develop sustainable systems including in Nepal and the Pacific Islands. In Nepal, USAID has invested $3.5 million to the Program for Aquatic Natural Resources Improvement. This program aims to reduce threats to freshwater biodiversity in several river basins nationwide. U.S. support has also targeted Central America. USAID’s Caribbean Climate Change Risk Reduction Initiative (CCCARRI) hopes to strengthen the development and implementation of green policies in Caribbean countries, notably Barbados, Trinidad, and Tobago.
China has also made great efforts to promote a green, low-carbon, and sustainable environment. Beijing is in the process of lowering its carbon dioxide per unit of GDP by 18 percent and its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 15 percent. In 2015, China made a pledge to launch a program by 2017 that will partially cap emissions and place a price on carbon. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to implement a cap-and-trade system marks a first for China. This emissions-trading system covers a wide range of sectors that produce a substantial percentage of climate pollution, including the paper and steel industries.
Additionally, the two superpowers have leveraged their combined power to push reform forward. The United States worked with the OECD to develop new guidelines to restrict financing of overseas coal-fired power plants. Likewise, China committed to bolster green policies by preventing public investment into projects with high pollution both on a domestic and international level. The U.S., along with other developed countries, has also committed to providing $100 billion per year by 2020 to developing countries to diversify their sources of energy.
Since the United States and China are the world’s largest polluters (accounting for over 40 percent of total global emissions), their actions are critical for international climate change. The two countries’ influence has pushed world leaders to sign and implement the 2015 Paris Climate Change agreement. This partnership brings hope not only for a more sustainable planet, but also for a strong alliance between the two superpowers.
Wasil is an Egyptian freshman in the School of Foreign Service studying International Politics. He has lived in 9 countries, speaks 5 languages and is the founder of a community service NGO called Clean & Green Egypt. In addition, Wasil writes for his own media outlet named Nile Scope.