On April 13th, the United States and China released a joint statement which highlighted the need for large-scale action on climate change. The world’s two largest economies and emitters of greenhouse gases agreed that the global response to climate change thus far has been inadequate and that the threat has not been appropriately prioritized. The joint statement is a call for the two countries to strengthen existing agreements and promote economic development powered by green technology.
The two nations do not shy away from asserting the relevance and seriousness of the threat – as well as its undeniable existence. The joint statement affirms, “The two countries took special note of the overwhelming scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change and its worsening impacts, including the sharp rise in global average temperatures over the past century, the alarming acidification of our oceans, the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, and the striking incidence of extreme weather events occurring all over the world.”
One of the more significant parts of the statement announces a Climate Change Working Group in anticipation of the 2013 Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). The Working Group will be led by Mr. Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change and Mr. Xie Zhenhua, Vice Chairman, the National Development and Reform Commission.
The Working Group will look to find ways to “advance cooperation on technology, research, conservation, and alternative and renewable energy.” It will also make preparations for the S&ED by identifying new areas of cooperation to enhance green and low-carbon economic growth through the use of public-private partnerships and other avenues.
The statement serves as a springboard for further cooperation and as a confidence-building measure between the two countries with the greatest power to make progress on climate change. Another important function of the statement is that it sets a reproducible example of bilateral cooperation for other nations which are considering taking action on climate change.
One such avenue of action on climate change, its security dimensions, has been highlighted by ASP. The preliminary results of ASP’s Global Security Defense Index show that over 70% of the nations in the world view climate change as a serious national security issue. The U.S.-China joint statement is helpful because the world’s two largest economies are able to set the international security agenda. This is a threat that does not respect borders; therefore it requires massive international cooperation and resources.