Last week’s two-day global conference on climate change chaired by the United States was especially heartening to those of us who believe that peace, prosperity and harmony can be better achieved by skilful diplomacy and relationship-building, rather than sabre-rattling, confrontation and public posturing.
With the leaders of 40 countries dialing in via zoom, including President Xi of China, there was much to discuss, including the growing instability of the earth’s atmosphere and the urgent need for all countries to take action on gas emissions. According to the China Economic Review, “China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, has announced its goal of becoming carbon emission neutral by 2060.
The central bank governor Li Gang said that hitting that goal will cost China nearly RMB 139 trillion ($21 trillion), which is not a small sum. China’s use of coal for power production continued to increase last year by 0.6%, and in 2019, coal accounted for 57% of energy production. For this year, as part of its efforts to hit the 2060 target, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said the aim is to cut coal use to below 56% of energy consumption. In other words, it’s really tough to end coal addiction”.
But it seems that, with only a few exceptions, global leaders are starting to face up to reality. US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who has been very critical of China on trade and IP related issues, acknowledged that America is “falling behind” in the green economy, pointing out that China holds nearly a third of the world’s renewable energy patents and is the world’s largest producer and exporter of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and electric vehicles. He went on to say “it’s difficult to imagine the United States winning the long-term strategic competition with China if we cannot lead the renewable energy revolution” and, if the US did not catch up in clean energy investment, “America will miss the chance to shape the world’s climate future in a way that reflects our interests and values, and we’ll lose out on countless jobs for the American people”.
It seems that major existential threats like greenhouse gas emissions and global pandemics are complex challenges that can unite the two world superpowers, rather than divide them. Let’s hope that these encouraging words are turned into action.