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Will China and the US Become Climate Partners Again?

Will China and the US Become Climate Partners Again?

The Biden campaign’s ambitious new plan for domestic climate action might help renew collaboration between the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters.

Strolling across the rolling lawns of Southern California's Sunnylands estate in 2013, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping formed a partnership that laid the foundation for the Paris Agreement. The next year in Beijing, their joint announcement of emission reduction targets gave the rest of the world confidence that the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases were committed to climate action.

But with President Trump's announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and a trade war between the two nations, the U.S.-China climate partnership ruptured.

Now, some academics and environmental advocates see a flicker of hope that a new U.S. administration might help the two nations again find common ground to address climate change.

So far, Biden's climate plans, including his latest, released on July 14, frame the U.S.-China relationship as one of competition rather than collaboration. But Villanova University political scientist Deborah Seligsohn said ambitious domestic climate action under a prospective Biden presidency would help to reengage China.

Restoring cooperation between the U.S. and China will be critical to advancing international efforts to fight climate change over the next year, said Thom Woodroofe, senior advisor to the president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

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