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USA not doing enough in climate fight

By Tang Wei | China Daily | Updated: 2015-12-05 08:04

It is unrealistic to use one meeting, the Paris Climate Change Conference in this case, to bridge the wide gap between developed and developing countries' interests and positions, which transform into differentiated responsibilities in the fight against climate change.

By issuing a joint statement with the United States on climate action in November 2014, China made clear its determination to combat climate change. It has set up a 20-billion yuan ($3.33 billion) cooperation fund to help the least developed countries adapt to and fight climate change.

According to the joint statement, China plans to cut its carbon dioxide emission per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent by 2030, when its emissions will peak, from the 2005 level. And the US intends to cut 26-28 percent of its emission in 2025 from the 2005 level.

This shows China and the US have the potential to form a "Group of 2" to promote global governance on climate issues. But for that, the US has to look beyond its narrow interests and provide the developing world with public goods, services and technologies.

The US has promised to "mobilize" other developed countries to raise $100 billion to help the developing countries cope with climate change. Yet few developing nations have received fund or technology assistance.

The US is in a much stronger position than China, in terms of economy and environmental protection measures, to combat climate change. Yet the achievement list of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in June shows just strategy making and implementation: China is ready to learn from US technologies, laws and management rules, while the US urges China to shoulder more global responsibilities and open its "green market" to the US.

But the US focuses on verifying China's implementation results, without granting China the necessary means to examine to what degree the US has helped it to combat climate change. This is certainly not what cooperation is about.

China lags behind the US in scientific and financial ability to fight climate change. And without advanced scientific knowledge and first-hand information on the changing climate and emissions, a country cannot fully deal with climate issues.

Fund raising is another area of divergence between China and the US. Most of the developed countries' aid comes from public funds, and increasingly the capital market. The US also relies on the capital market and innovative financial tools to raise money to aid developing countries. Funds from the market may be less reliable, but they relieve the burden of governments.

In contrast, the financial sector of China and other developing countries are less developed. The developing countries will lose some of their say in climate-fund raising if the capital market and new financial tools play the leading role in raising climate funds.

More importantly, the developed countries have moved (and are still moving) their high-emission, resource-consuming and labor-intensive industries to China and other developing counties, which means developing countries suffer from pollution to provide products and services for rich countries.

In such a case who should be blamed for the pollution: the producers or the end consumers? As things stand today, the developing countries are taking the blame for the emissions and suffering from the pollution.

China cannot shoulder any responsibility beyond its abilities. And the US has been hesitant even unwilling to help the developing countries by providing them assistance through its funds and technologies. So, how should they align their approaches for the common fight against climate change?

The differences between China and the US on cooperation to combat climate change indicate the current world order, which is still dominated by the developed world with the US as its leader. China, therefore, has to strengthen cooperation with developing countries in order to press the developed countries to fulfill their assistance promise to the developing world, and abide by the "common but differentiated responsibilities".

The author is a researcher of international relations with Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The article is firstly published on on Dec 1.

USA not doing enough in climate fight

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