What U.S.-China diplomacy relationship means for fighting climate change with Kevin Rudd – California China Climate Institute

Audio by: Megan Bergeron | Writing by: Marie Hogan, Amanda Neslund, Alexandra Jade Garcia  | Socials by: Wangyuxuan Xu

The most recent UN Climate Conference (COP26) occurred in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31st through November 12th, 2021. The UN Climate Conferences serve as formal meetings of world leaders to assess the processes of combating climate change. These conferences are some of the largest international meetings and involve intergovernmental negotiations to produce climate pledges per country to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. 

Last year’s talks resulted in new “building blocks” to help advance the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Countries also agreed to move away from fossil fuels, including phasing-down coal power and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. COP26 completed the Paris Agreement ‘rulebook’ and agreed on operational details of the agreement as well. The conference resulted in 137 nations committing to halt and reverse forest and land degradation by 2030. Also, 103 nations, including 15 large emitters, agreed to limit methane, one of the most potent and heat-trapping greenhouse gasses, emissions by thirty percent of 2020 levels by 2030. 

Another, primary goal for UN Climate Conferences is to achieve carbon neutrality. Carbon neutrality is the state of net-zero carbon emissions, which means the amount of carbon emitted to the atmosphere is balanced by an equal amount of carbon being sequestered from the atmosphere. Countries reaching climate neutrality is an incredibly important goal for the UN Climate Conference in order to meet their primary objectives to prevent further and prevent the worst effects of climate change.

The Paris Agreement requires countries to have net-zero emissions by 2050, however, this goal is currently unrealistic for many major polluting nations. China’s net-zero target is by 2060 and India pledges to be carbon neutral by 2070. In COP26, China and India both took conservative stances on reducing emissions and in fact changed the language of the accord from “phasing out” coal to “phase down” coal. China’s emissions goal is to hit peak emissions in 2030 and slowly phase down to their net-zero target over thirty years, however, this is a challenging goal while the nation still heavily relies on coal. 

Despite the many climate agreements and achievements of COP26, the conference also revealed the many challenges and realities that face our world to achieve the Paris Agreement’s net zero emissions targets. COP26 has been criticized for its inaction to support communities that are most vulnerable to climate disasters. The conference also failed to reduce greenhouse gasses to the necessary levels to prevent warming above 1.5 degrees celsius, which is in part related to China and India’s reliance on coal and ambitious future carbon neutrality pledges. Egypt will host the next UN Climate Conference (COP27) in November 2022 with goals to stay on target with the Paris Agreement, transition to a low-carbon economy, and revolutionize supply chains to help combat climate change. 

Kevin Rudd served as Australia’s 26th Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010, and again from June through September 2013. Rudd is part of Australia’s Labor Party and served as Australia’s Foreign Minister between 2010 and 2012. Today, Rudd is the president and chief executive of the Asia Society and has been president of the Asia Society Policy Institute since 2015. In addition to this work, Rudd has been internationally recognized for his environmental activism and his leadership as a founder of the G20 summit. 

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Rudd: Working diplomatically with states, with whom you have a whole range of fundamental disagreement. Diplomacy may actually produce some real results We can walk and chew gum at the same time on this stuff. And the planet requires us to do.

Ethan: That’s Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, in a California-China Climate Institute discussion with former Governor Jerry Brown. Rudd says addressing climate change requires the US and China to put aside differences and collaborate on climate policy.

Rudd: It’s time for the Chinese and the Americans to put the megaphone down for awhile and rediscover the virtues of diplomatic dialogue. You can prescribe an architecture for the U S China relationship, which creates the political space for collaboration and global public goods. where the stakes are so large globally and no single nation can make the difference, but all nations together can make the difference.

What I’d love to see is for the climate change working group between China and the United States to become the engine room of further climate change transformation. Because what Americans do and what the Chinese do together, you actually shape a large part of the future of the planet because you’re the first and second largest emitters in the world.

Ethan: To learn more about Kevin Rudd and the US-China Climate Change Working Group, visit climatebreak.org. I’m Ethan Elkind and this was Climate Break.

What U.S.-China diplomacy relationship means for fighting climate change with Kevin Rudd – California China Climate Institute