The US and China should focus on air pollution to tackle climate change

Zhang, Junjie. Why the US and China should focus on air pollution to tackle climate change. Asia Blog, 6 March, 2014. Retrieved 11 March, 2014, from http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/why-us-and-china-should-focus-air-pollution-tackle-climate-change

The U.S. and China, the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), are seeking common ground for climate action. During his China trip in February, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the U.S.-China Joint Statement on Climate Change, which pledges to devote resources to “secure concrete results” by the 2014 U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue. While there is no shortage of ideas about what the bilateral climate collaboration might address, the challenge is to identify a focal issue that is economically beneficial and politically viable for both countries.

Neither China nor the U.S. has shown a willingness to take measures that will reduce GHG emissions if there are economic costs attached. On the Chinese side, GDP growth remains a top priority, and political leaders are reluctant to sacrifice GDP growth in order to reduce GHG emissions. In addition, GHG emissions are not a known indicator in China’s cadre performance appraisal system, which partly determines the career advancement of government officials. Such officials have no immediate incentive to make decisions aimed at limiting carbon emissions. In the United States, proposed laws and regulations to limit GHG emissions or put a price on carbon have repeatedly been turned back because of concerns over their impact on the economy.

Cooperation on climate change is most likely to occur in an area associated with positive economic, health, and social impacts. The nexus between climate change and air pollution represents an area in which the U.S. and China can create a host of benefits that should appeal to leaders and key constituencies.

Read the full story on Asia Blog

 


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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