China, the United States, India and the European Union are the top four greenhouse gas emitters in the world, contributing over 48% of total global emissions. Unless these four regions take more significant climate action, there is little hope of achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) and preventing the worst effects of climate change.

But advancing ambitious climate action on the international stage presents a serious challenge. Many issues related to climate and energy — including the social and economic impacts of transitioning to a green economy — have become too politically charged for governments to navigate in traditional government-to-government (“Track I”) settings. And at the national level, governments are often subject to conflicting political interests which threaten to stymie international collaboration.

This is where “Track II,” or informal diplomacy, comes in. Track II diplomacy allows for candid discussions among government, subnational, civil society and private sector leaders. These dialogues provide an avenue for maintaining and strengthening communication on critical issues and developing a deeper understanding of cultural context. When maintained over multiple years, Track II dialogues also create continuity, allowing trusted partners to continue to work together despite domestic shakeups in political power.

As relations between countries are tested by global challenges, Track II diplomacy can serve as an effective avenue for bilateral collaboration and communication on climate and issues.

About WRI’s Track II Expert Dialogues

WRI facilitates several "Track II Expert Dialogues” between the U.S. and the EU, China and India to exchange ideas and build long-lasting international relations. These discussions focus on strengthening communication and collaboration around climate change and energy among thought leaders while helping to advance international cooperation on issues consistent with WRI’s mission.

Participants in the China-U.S. High-Level Dialogue on Energy and Climate Change in Beijing, China in April 2024..
Participants in the China-U.S. High-Level Dialogue on Energy and Climate Change in Beijing, China in April 2024.

The Track II Expert Dialogues bring together senior nongovernmental advisors, former government officials and other stakeholders from each country. WRI works with actors from across the political spectrum, facilitating open and candid conversations with the aim of increasing ambition for climate action on both sides and advancing bilateral cooperation. Amidst a dynamic international political environment, these dialogues have become a platform for continuous communication, encouraging a better understanding of each country's climate and development priorities, barriers to action, and opportunities to increase climate ambition domestically and collaboratively.

Bilateral dialogues convened by WRI include:

China-U.S. High-Level Dialogue on Energy and Climate Change

WRI has directed a Track II Experts’ Dialogue between China and the United States since September 2015, when delegates gathered to discuss shared climate and energy concerns in advance of the final negotiations of the Paris Agreement. In June 2023, the China-U.S. High-Level Dialogue on Energy and Climate Change will convene in person for the first time since November 2019. The dialogue will be held in Los Angeles, California, bringing together U.S. and China-based experts and policymakers to discuss opportunities to accelerate independent and collaborative climate action. Dialogue sessions will focus on several key issues, including methane monitoring and mitigation; power sector decarbonization; and the nexus between climate and trade and what role carbon pricing can play in this space. The dialogue will also identify potential areas for bilateral cooperation; these could include carbon dioxide removal, green finance, and agriculture and food.

The China-U.S. Dialogue is conducted with support from the Sequoia Climate Fund and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

India-U.S. Track II Dialogue on Climate Change and Energy

WRI has supported a Track II Experts’ Dialogue between India and the United States since 2010. In April 2023, U.S. and Indian delegates met in Washington, D.C. for the 12th India-U.S. Track II Dialogue on Climate Change and Energy. Convened at the Aspen Institute, dialogue sessions covered a wide range of topics, including supply chains and critical minerals; climate finance and ESG regulations; how to sustainably address cooling needs, both for human health and economic stability; scaling up green hydrogen deployment; and climate resilience. The dialogue led to numerous recommendations, including:

  • Harmonizing regulations and standards for green hydrogen, including consistent approaches to monitoring, reporting and verification.
  • Developing partnerships to achieve hydrogen scaling and cost reduction for clean steel and green ammonia, as well as developing Paris-aligned targets for shipping decarbonization and using lifecycle “Well-to-Wake” accounting.
  • Addressing the cost of capital and ensuring flexibility and resilience through expanded de-risking facilities, in addition to increasing the usage and deployment of extreme weather and disaster and pandemic clauses.
  • Addressing critical mineral supply chain resilience through knowledge-sharing on battery recycling and reuse and creating an initiative on workforce development.

The India-U.S. Track II Dialogue is conducted in collaboration with and supported by the Aspen Institute, with additional support from ClimateWorks Foundation and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

EU-U.S. High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change

Since 2020, WRI, in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, E3G, and the Center for American Progress, has led an Expert Dialogue series between the United States and the European Union. Thus far, several virtual dialogues have been held, with a focus on some of the most pressing issues and concerns facing both regions: green recovery, cooperation with other countries on climate and energy, and international climate progress.

The seventh EU-U.S. Dialogue on Climate Change was held in April 2023. Representatives from the U.S. and EU discussed transatlantic industrial policy and trade implications, opportunities to accelerate climate action, and reforming multilateral development banks and debt architecture. The dialogue led to numerous recommendations, including:

  • Accelerating and improving work with private sector actors, and mobilizing additional climate finance, by adopting a business-case perspective and illustrating the benefits of investing in decarbonization measures.
  • Advanced engagements with other countries (such as China, India and countries of the global south) to strengthen relationships and drive the clean energy transition.
  • Maximizing ambition on MDB reform by addressing capital adequacy frameworks to accelerate alignment with the Paris Agreement’s goals. This can include changing the MDB’s approach to defining risk tolerance, giving more credit to callable capital, expanding financial innovations including guarantees and securitization, and improving credit ratings’ agencies assessments.
  • Holding future discussions at both the policy and technical levels on setting cohesive standards, such as for embedded carbon, low-carbon products, green hydrogen taxonomies, environmental and social performance within critical minerals supply chains and debt relief.

The EU-U.S. Dialogue is conducted with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.