U.S.-China Climate Change Cooperation: Overcoming Obstacles
Any solution to global warming will require substantial activity in the United States and China, the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases. Working together, the two countries could make important progress in addressing this challenge. Recent developments—including new leadership in the U.S., dire scientific warnings and an aggressive international negotiating schedule—are dramatically raising the profile of this issue on the U.S.-China bilateral agenda. Yet different histories, cultures and national circumstances create substantial barriers to large-scale cooperation.
On February 5, the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings hosted a discussion on overcoming obstacles to U.S.-China cooperation on climate change, focusing on ways in which cooperation can gain sustained political support in both countries. Brookings experts Kenneth Lieberthal and David Sandalow presented the findings of their recent report, which identifies key obstacles, provides information about each country for the leadership of the other and makes nine recommendations. John Thornton, chairman of the Brookings Board of Trustees, provided welcoming remarks and moderated the discussion. Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the U.S., made opening remarks. Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat and Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Elizabeth Economy provided commentary following the presentations.
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With the downward trajectory in [U.S.-China] relations, the incoming ambassador ideally will need to have a visible connection to the president and his senior advisers, familiarity with the range of issues that comprise the relationship, and a future in American politics. The more the ambassador is seen as likely to wield influence in the future on issues affecting China, the higher the cost and risk for Beijing to mistreat him/her.