An optimistic take on U.S.-China climate change cooperation

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On the subject of climate change and U.S.-China relations, the dominant media narrative is, by far, that “Trump is quietly surrendering to China on climate change,” as Vice puts it. On a national government level in both countries, this is undoubtedly true right now, for all the reasons mentioned in that article. But for the two countries as a whole, Vance Wagner and Zou Ji 邹骥 — two former government officials from the U.S. and China, respectively, who worked on U.S.-China climate diplomacy — there is a good outlook for continued collaboration, they argue in Chinadialogue.

  • “Working-level climate and clean energy cooperation continues,” they point out, as “dozens” of bilateral forums and initiatives from the U.S., most with multi-year work plans, continue to operate. While one initiative out of Boston was stunted by lack of federal funding, another run by the Department of State just announced three new partnerships.
  • States, cities, and many organizations have built global initiatives around climate change, with California going the extra mile and sending a delegation led by governor Jerry Brown to meet directly with President Xi Jinping in June.
  • China is innovating, and part of its change is still fueled by the U.S. — literally, in the case of natural gas exports from the U.S. replacing coal in China and clearing up the country’s skies. Wagner and Zou also point out that Trump’s choice of ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, has had positive experiences with wind power in his home state of Iowa that he may find applicable in China, and that U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has flagged interest in supporting China’s emerging nuclear summer.

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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company’s newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.