China will adhere to its commitments under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is on track to exceed key targets early, despite the U.S. administration’s intention to withdraw from the historic climate pact, a senior Chinese climate expert said.
Zhou Dadi, a member of China’s National Experts Panel on Climate Change, made this comment on July 17 after two days of discussions between U.S. and Chinese policy experts in San Francisco, which will be the site of the Global Climate Action Summit in September.
“Although your current government will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, China would not change our policy, because our policy is based on science and there is more and more strong scientific evidence,” he said.
“Climate change is one of the most serious risks and challenges facing human beings, and China is the number one emitter of greenhouse gases, so China will take more responsibility in international cooperation to combat climate change and will play a leading role to cooperate with all countries to enhance ambition,” Zhou added.
For example, he said, China has committed to reduce the intensity of emissions relative to GDP by at 40 to 45 percent by 2020. China has already reduced emissions intensity by more than 44 percent, he said. Similarly, China committed to peak absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. “Our studies suggest it is very likely we can achieve that target before 2025,” he said.
Zhou spoke following the fourth meeting of the China-U.S. High-Level Dialogue on Energy and Climate Change, the first time participants have gathered outside China. These meetings have taken on added importance since the Trump administration effectively ended climate cooperation with China and other countries. WRI organizes the dialogues with the Counsellors’ Office of the State Council of China and other U.S. and Chinese partners.
Andrew Light, Distinguished Senior Fellow at WRI and former senior U.S. climate negotiator, said that the United States and China have strong incentives to cooperate in accelerating the shift to low-carbon technologies, given the many economic, security, health and other benefits they provide, regardless of the current state of U.S. politics.
During the dialogue, Light said, participants explored ways for China to engage with U.S. non-federal entities, such as states, cities, companies, and research institutes. Dialogue participants included top U.S. and Chinese climate policy experts and former negotiators and officials.
“There are still many cooperative mechanisms between the US and China at different levels and with different entities,” Light said, adding that such activities can advance cooperation in the short term while also providing a platform for resumption of official cooperation with a future US administration.
Climate action by U.S. non-federal entities will be a major focus of the Global Climate Action Summit, which will be held in San Francisco on September 12-15. Organized by California Gov. Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg, the UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and former mayor of New York City, the summit has named Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs, as its fifth co-chair. Other co-chairs are Brown; Bloomberg; Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Anand Mahindra, Chair of the Mahindra Group.
A video of the briefing where Zhou and Light spoke is available here.