Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Wednesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day this week via video and deliver an important speech. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced that he will attend the US-led summit. Washington has ratcheted up efforts to gang up its allies to suppress China and Russia. The attendance of Xi and Putin shows the two countries’ responsible attitude in handling the common challenge of mankind.
Tackling climate change is one of the most important agendas of humanity. It should go beyond geopolitics and garner the support of all the countries. As the biggest developing country, China has taken a firm and positive attitude and is known for delivering what it has promised. Last year, China set the goal of having CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060. It was not easy for China to make such a decision, and Western opinion spoke positively about it.
It is good enough that the climate summit can be held amid severe geopolitical turbulence. Whether it will succeed depends primarily on whether the US government can set an example as the world’s top developed economy and display its credible determination to fulfill its obligations to cut emissions. It needs to see whether the US determination can win wide support from Americans and withstand the times.
According to US media, the Biden administration will pledge to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030, almost twice what the Obama administration vowed to cut. But this pledge was immediately opposed by the Republican Party. As is known to all, the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris Agreement, calling climate change a “hoax” invented by China.
The US’ biggest problem is its strategic selfishness and inconsistency. The US regards the arrangement that conforms to its own interests as rules. When its interests or ideas change, the US will overturn the rules it set. When it comes to long-term plans such as reducing carbon emissions, it is a problem to what extent the Biden administration’s decision counts. Once a Republican government returns to power, it is entirely possible that Washington may abandon the agreement again.
The climate issue is also a game of interests. Developed countries have taken a step ahead in industrialization and have completed their construction tasks which require high carbon emissions. They have contributed to most emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that has increased due to human activity. But the living standards of many people in developing countries are still very low. At this stage, developed countries should bear more responsibility in the task of reducing emissions. They have become rich first, and they are obliged to offer more funds and technologies to help developing countries shift to a green economy.
The climate summit dominated by the US needs to promote such ideas of emissions reduction among developed countries: Washington wants to play a “leading” role in climate actions, then it must take the lead in implementing such ideas and ensure the country fulfill its commitments.
Now is far from the time to exert strong pressure on developing countries and request them to increase their emissions reduction obligations. The US and Western public opinion advocates fairness and justice, but how emissions reduction obligations are distributed is a matter that concerns the prospects for economic development of various countries and their right to promote industrialization. Whether developed countries are willing to give more room for developing countries to improve people’s livelihood through industrialization and whether these developed countries are willing to assume the main task of emissions reduction at this stage will be a test to their loyalty to the concepts of fairness and justice.
Only reasonable things can be promoted sustainably. Only a leading country setting an example will international community not be confused. To host the climate summit, Washington must curb its political or geopolitical selfish calculations. Only when Washington can truly play a responsible role can the meeting have long-term significance.