My name is Siddharth Chatterjee, and I am the UN Resident Coordinator in China. I want to thank the China Institute, the Serica Initiative, and the U.S. China Climate Forum for the invitation to speak at this much-needed and timely discussion on the future of China-U.S. climate collaboration.
2022 has been a difficult year for humanity and the planet. Our exploitation of earth’s resources has led to more climate change, more warming, more floods, more fires, more hunger, more diseases, more forced migration, and more war. From the tragic floods in Pakistan, record heat waves, droughts, and deadly rainfall in China, to forest fires in California and floods in Florida, the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters have led to thousands of lives lost and hundreds of billions of dollars in damage. It has placed society’s most vulnerable populations at the highest risk of displacement, put global food security at risk, and damaged critical infrastructure.
It is, thus, under this historical juncture, that the United Nations welcomes the restarted climate talks between China and U.S., an announcement made upon the conclusion of the bilateral meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden, leaders of these two great powers, at the G20 in Indonesia on 14 November.
A reinitiated high-level dialogue after a months-long hiatus between the climate envoys of the world’s largest economies – and greenhouse gas emitters – gives the world much-needed reassurance and hope in increasingly uncertain times.
It is clear how critical the China-U.S. climate collaboration is.
From a number of ground-breaking joint agreements to dozens of high-level meetings between the two sides, the two nations have demonstrated, within the past decade, that they are willing, ready, and committed to working constructively, despite their differences, for the common good with the seriousness the challenge requires.
From enormous human capital, and cutting-edge scientific innovation, to manufacturing capacities, each side has unique assets and capabilities to leverage. The climate-energy transition that is already underway can be greatly accelerated given the sheer size and significance of China-U.S. collaboration and the importance of their economies and emissions – the US and China together account for close to 40% of global GDP and greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy can be made available at increasingly lower costs to consumers across the two economies and for international markets. Climate impact can be scaled at an unprecedented pace.
The two nations’ joint leadership and shared influence, as evident in injecting a well-timed morale boost at COP27 just earlier last month, encourages other nations to pledge more ambitious and bolder climate commitments towards a sustainable future. Here I quote China’s Special Envoy for Climate Change Mr. XIE Zhenhua, that “there is more agreement between the US and China than divergence, making it an area of huge potential for cooperation.”
Some specific areas where there is substantial potential for cooperation include ensuring a just transition for those working in the fossil fuel industry (oil and gas in the United States and coal in China), as the transition away from fossil fuels puts entire communities into jeopardy where these sectors are one of the main generators of employment. Other areas where this cooperation could prove important include the development of regulatory frameworks and environmental standards, policies focused on decarbonization and green technologies, and ensuring that there is technology transfer to developing countries to allow for them to rapidly decarbonize, and ensure a greener, more sustainable future.
There is both goodwill and critical national interests that should be considered equally in this re-engagement. Each side’s ambitious domestic climate agenda will only benefit from enhanced engagement. By putting differences aside to consider the future of humanity, China-U.S. climate collaboration can become an oasis that shall not, again, turn into desert.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have reasons to be hopeful about our future.
With the recent closing of COP27 Egypt, two key outcomes are a ground-breaking agreement on a new fund to provide money for “loss and damage” and the re-initiated China-U.S. climate dialogue.
I wish to recall and emphasize remarks from Mr. António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, at the beginning of COP27, who said, “the two largest economies – the United States and China – have a particular responsibility to join efforts to make [the Climate Solidarity] Pact a reality. This is our only hope of meeting our climate goals.”
This re-engagement lays the foundation for a world with a greater chance to limit the rise in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to continue pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees.
We must also remember that the climate crisis is not a standalone issue that is solely the responsibility of governments. It is also not simply a bilateral issue. The world needs to unite to safeguard the future of humanity and our planet. We need greater cross-sector collaboration and enhanced public-private partnerships in all sectors of the economy to accelerate innovative, differentiated solutions to address the impact of climate change, as well as rising greenhouse gas emissions. Every move and every step matters.
I will stop here and pass it on to the moderator. I wish you all a fruitful discussion.