How The United States Can Reinforce Chinese Action on Climate Change

Co-authored by Joshua Busby, Associate Professor of Public Affairs at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the LBJ School of the University of Texas at Austin, and Sarang Shidore, a Visiting Scholar at the LBJ School, this paper focuses on how the international policy environment can help shape China’s choices to more vigorously reduce its carbon footprint. While recognizing the enormous effort China has already undertaken domestically on energy and environment, the authors argue that certain US actions can nonetheless incentivize and reinforce China’s carbon reduction efforts.

Given the complicated relationship between the need to improve air quality while cutting carbon, it is no surprise that the Chinese government is grappling with a multiplicity of solutions and options. Settling on the optimal mix of actions involves serious consideration of choices, challenges, and tradeoffs. Thus, Beijing finds itself in the unenviable position of trying to determine a balanced approach among numerous options, all of which could yield unintended outcomes for addressing climate.

According to the authors, within this context, the US can capitalize on existing opportunities for further engagement, in large part to help China sort the better options from suboptimal ones, drawing on US and international experiences. US engagement could also help to reinforce the incentives for China to pursue actions that target carbon more directly.

While sustaining momentum on climate at home will be important for US credibility, the authors argue there are several areas where engagement could yield positive outcomes between the two countries. These include, broadly speaking, fostering transparency through research partnerships, which could help support the thorny process of measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV), as well as vigorously pursuing complementary and pragmatic processes that are not part of the UN negotiations.

Get Our Stuff