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  • Author: Varun Sivaram, Matt Bowen, Noah Kaufman, Doug Rand
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: President-elect Joe Biden has called climate change one of the four most important crises facing the country and pledged ambitious climate action.[1] At the heart of his strategy to slash US and global emissions is a focus on developing new and improved technologies to make clean energy transitions more affordable. During the campaign, Biden pledged a “historic investment in clean energy innovation.”[2] Indeed, boosting funding for energy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) is widely popular among both Republicans and Democrats and represents a rare legislative opportunity for advancing climate policy under a razor-thin Democratic majority in Congress.[3] In December 2020, Congress passed the most sweeping energy legislation in a decade, attached to the $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package, and authorized boosting clean energy RD&D funding.[4] Yet such investments alone may not be sufficient to successfully commercialize critical clean energy technologies. Today’s energy industry presents daunting barriers that impede the swift adoption of newer, cleaner technologies. As a result, the private sector underinvests in scaling up promising technologies and building out clean energy infrastructure.[5] Therefore, in addition to funding energy RD&D (“technology-push” policies), government policies should bolster market demand for clean energy to encourage private investors and firms to scale up and commercialize new technologies (“demand-pull” policies). Still, there are steep political obstacles in the way of many ambitious demand-pull policies. For example, President-elect Biden has called for economywide measures such as a clean electricity standard and $400 billion of public procurement of clean products such as electric vehicles.[6] These policies would create large markets for mass deployment of clean energy and speed a clean energy transition. But enacting them requires substantial new regulations and appropriations from Congress, a challenging feat even given the new Democratic control of both chambers of Congress. Fortunately, there is a set of targeted demand-pull measures that the Biden administration can immediately use—with existing statutory authority and without requiring massive new appropriations—to create early markets for promising clean energy technologies. These measures, which we call “demand-pull innovation policies,” fill a niche between RD&D investments that create new technology options and policies that support the large-scale deployment of clean energy. Demand-pull innovation policies focus narrowly on creating and shaping early markets for emerging technologies. For example, targeted government procurement, prize competitions, or milestone payments can provide early markets for clean energy technologies that have been developed with the aid of public RD&D funding. The government can also coordinate private procurement or otherwise catalyze private market adoption through certification and standard-setting processes. Such demand-pull innovation policies have extremely high leverage and have transformed limited public investment into flourishing private commercial markets across the space, medical, and energy fields.[7] Coherently pursuing demand-pull innovation policies will require coordination across the federal government. To this end, the incoming Biden administration should consider creating a new government office, the Energy Technology Markets Office (ETMO), to spearhead the scale-up and commercialization of promising clean energy technologies. The ETMO could be housed within the Department of Energy (DOE) to take advantage of the DOE’s deep expertise in energy technologies and markets. Indeed, in the recently passed Energy Act of 2020 (Division Z of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021), Congress directed the DOE to build its capabilities to pursue demand-pull innovation policies.[8] In the same legislation, Congress also authorized the DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions, which could alternatively lead the demand-pull innovation agenda. Regardless of whether the administration creates a new office or augments an existing one, in order to maximize their potential impact, demand-pull innovation policies should not be the domain of only the DOE. Rather, the DOE should collaborate with a range of federal agencies—many of which, such as the Department of Defense, have sizable resources to invest in emerging technology procurement—to enact policies and pursue public-private partnerships to build market demand for the innovations critical to decarbonization. In concert with new RD&D investments in clean energy innovation, demand-pull innovation policies could be a powerful tool to speed the adoption of new technologies and cultivate advanced energy industries that can manufacture and export US innovations.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Science and Technology, Green Technology, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jason Bordoff
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted daily life, caused widespread sickness and fatalities, and sent the global economy careening toward a depression. Governments have responded by taking unprecedented steps to shut down entire cities, ban travel, and isolate nations—extreme measures that are giving hope to climate activists that similarly ambitious policies might be possible to address global warming, which many consider a similar existential threat. Yet that would be the wrong lesson to draw, as the very same barriers preventing an effective COVID-19 response continue to keep climate change action out of reach. Scientists warn that the impacts of COVID-19 will rise sharply over time, threatening the lives of vast numbers of people, particularly those most vulnerable. They warn that climate change, too, will severely harm many over time, albeit not with the same rapidity. If governments and companies can take extreme actions to cancel sports seasons, shut down workplaces, and restrict movement, surely they can take similarly drastic steps to change how we produce and consume energy?
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Matt Bowen
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: Nuclear energy has shown much promise and faced considerable challenges since its origins in the mid-20th century. While the United States drove the early charge for safe nuclear power around the globe, its leadership has waned in recent decades. US reactors now under construction—following no orders for such plants in the United States for several decades—have gone well over planned budgets and schedules. And while the United States was once the leading international supplier of reactors, other countries have since stepped forward to fill that role. Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, as part of its wider work on nuclear energy, is examining the impact of potential American disengagement from nuclear power’s development and where opportunities exist to step back in and shape its future. The program also will assess the US nuclear waste management program and efforts to collaborate with other countries on advanced reactor development, as well as options for improvement on both fronts. This effort will begin with a two-part commentary on some of the benefits the United States might derive from increasing its engagement on nuclear power. The first in the series, this piece, explores the important role nuclear energy can play in lowering greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst potential outcomes of climate change. The second piece will examine the geopolitical and national security implications of the United States and its traditional allies effectively ceding the international nuclear energy marketplace to the Chinese and Russians. The nuclear program’s ultimate goal is to inform readers—policy makers, industry leaders, academics, and others—with objective, research-based analysis. It will strive in the months and years ahead to contribute constructively to a necessary dialogue on the future of nuclear power.
  • Topic: Environment, Nuclear Power, Pollution, Air Pollution, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kevin Tu
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is inflicting high human costs in China and around the world. The stringent quarantine measures imposed by the Chinese government have severely affected the country’s economic activity, with profound energy and climate implications
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Philippe Benoit, Kevin Tu
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: China’s dramatic economic growth in the 21st century has made it not only the second largest economy in the world but also a powerhouse in the global energy system. Now, as the top energy consumer and the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, China is being closely watched and judged as its impact on energy markets and climate grows more profound. Looking forward, many issues are expected to shape the evolution of China’s energy sector, not least of which is its development status. While China’s economic might makes it a superpower alongside the United States, it still faces many of the major challenges of a typical developing country, such as widespread energy poverty, including 400 million people without access to clean cooking, significant air pollution, and dependence on increasing energy use to fuel future economic growth. Its modest income per capita qualifies it as a middle-income developing country. Evaluating China’s development status is not just an academic exercise. How China views itself and its challenges and how the international community classifies it carry real-world consequences that can significantly impact how the country manages its energy needs going forward, what fuels it uses, how it interacts with energy and other partners, and the level of its contributions and commitment to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts worldwide. Understanding the nature and implications of China’s development situation can help in designing energy policies and fostering an international framework that better promote sustainable growth both within the country and globally. This paper examines how the usual criteria employed by international organizations to determine a country’s development standing have become increasingly difficult to apply to China, given the dramatic changes it has undergone over the past several decades, notably from an energy perspective. The paper finds that China combines significant characteristics of both developing and developed countries and examines the energy and environmental implications of this hybrid status.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, Energy Policy, Environment
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Jason Bordoff
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: In the U.S. Democratic Party, perhaps no issue has risen more in prominence during this election year compared with prior ones than climate change. The number of self-identified Democrats who consider it a “major threat” is up from 6 in 10 in 2013 to almost 9 in 10 today. A slew of proposals—from the Green New Deal embraced by many progressive environmental groups to a new 538-page climate plan released by Democratic members of a special committee on the climate crisis in the U.S. House of Representatives—lay out various policies. Yet while these plans offer much to celebrate, all of them fall short by focusing on domestic actions while paying scant attention to the global nature of the crisis. Every ton of carbon dioxide contributes to climate change no matter where it is emitted, so an ambitious climate strategy cannot only be domestic—it must put the issue squarely at the center of U.S. foreign policy. Past U.S. efforts to advance global action, such as Washington’s leadership to help secure the 2015 Paris climate agreement, have been key to progress. Yet given both the urgency and global nature of climate change, the issue cannot be siloed into U.S. State Department or Energy Department offices and spheres of diplomacy. Many aspects of U.S. foreign policy will impact, and be impacted by, climate change. An effective foreign policy requires taking climate change directly into consideration—not just as a problem to resolve, but as an issue that can affect the success and failure of strategies in areas as varied as counterterrorism, migration, international economics, and maritime security. Human rights offers some important lessons. In the wake of the Vietnam War and the United States’ secret bombings of Cambodia, public concern for human rights was on the rise. Upon taking office in 1977, President Jimmy Carter declared human rights to be a “central concern” of U.S. foreign policy. In contrast to the realpolitik promoted by outgoing Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Carter argued that protecting human rights would advance U.S. interests and was too important to be divorced from other aspects of U.S. foreign policy. Rather, human rights must be “woven into the fabric of our foreign policy,” as then Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher testified before a Senate subcommittee. Despite Carter’s mixed foreign-policy success, climate change demands a similar centrality. As the defining challenge of our time, climate change must be elevated to a foreign-policy priority and cannot be addressed with a compartmentalized approach. It is necessary, of course, to rejoin the Paris agreement, contribute to international finance efforts such as the Green Climate Fund, curb multilateral coal financing, and collaborate with other countries on clean-energy innovation. Yet all these efforts add up to an international climate strategy, not a climate-centered foreign policy. Truly making climate change a pillar of a foreign-policy strategy would have five key elements.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, International Cooperation, Paris Agreement
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jonathan Elkind, Damian Bednarz
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: Prospects for the proposed European Green Deal—a top European Union (EU) priority despite the headwinds from the global pandemic—require accommodating both the “climate ambitious” policy makers in Brussels, Berlin, and several other EU capitals and the “climate cautious” leaders in Warsaw and other Eastern European capitals. With the European Council’s announcement of an agreed package on July 21, 2020, a tricky step remains: ratification by the European Parliament and national legislatures. If lawmakers support the Council’s package, this impressive feat of deal-making will yield important outcomes
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Regional Cooperation, Science and Technology, European Union, Green Technology, Green New Deal
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: David B. Sandalow, Xu Qinhua
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: On June 14, 2020 New York time and June 15, 2020 Beijing time, the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and Center for International Energy and Environment Strategy Studies at Renmin University convened a joint Zoom workshop on green stimulus programs in the US and China. The workshop offered a chance for scholars from the two universities to explore the recent economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stimulus measures adopted to date and green stimulus proposals in both countries. Participants also discussed other measures to promote clean energy and low-carbon development in the US and China.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Green Technology, Paris Agreement
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Noah Kaufman, Peter Marsters, Alexander R. Barron, Wojciech Krawczyk, Haewon McJeon
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: The social cost of carbon (SCC) is commonly described and used as the optimal CO2 price. However, the wide range of SCC estimates provides limited practical assistance to policymakers setting specific CO2 prices. Here we describe an alternate near-term to net zero (NT2NZ) approach, estimating CO2 prices needed in the near term for consistency with a net-zero CO2 emissions target. This approach dovetails with the emissions-target-focused approach that frames climate policy discussions around the world, avoids uncertainties in estimates of climate damages and long-term decarbonization costs, offers transparency about sensitivities and enables the consideration of CO2 prices alongside a portfolio of policies. We estimate illustrative NT2NZ CO2 prices for the United States; for a 2050 net-zero CO2 emission target, prices are US$34 to US$64 per metric ton in 2025 and US$77 to US$124 in 2030. These results are most influenced by assumptions about complementary policies and oil prices.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Natural Resources, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Julio Friedmann, Alex Zapantis, Brad Page, Chris Consoli, Zhiyuan Fan, Ian Havercroft, Harry Liu, Emeka Richard Ochu, Nabeela Raji, Dominic Rassool, Hadia Sheerazi, Alex Townsend
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: The case for rapid and profound decarbonization has never been more obvious or more urgent, and immediate action must match growing global ambition and need. An important new component of this discussion is the necessity of achieving net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions for any climate stabilization target. Until net-zero emissions are achieved, greenhouse gas will accumulate in the atmosphere and oceans, and concentrations will grow, even with deep and profound emissions reduction, mitigation, and adaptation measures. This places a severe constraint on human enterprise: any carbon removed from the earth must be returned to the earth.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Green Technology, Carbon Emissions, Decarbonization
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David R. Hill
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: Speaking at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Technical Conference regarding Carbon Pricing in Organized Wholesale Electricity Markets, adjunct senior research scholar David R. Hill delivered a statement on issues surrounding carbon pricing in the FERC-jurisdictional markets. The purpose of this conference was to discuss considerations related to state-adoption of mechanisms to price carbon dioxide emissions, commonly referred to as carbon pricing, in regions with Commission-jurisdictional organized wholesale electricity markets (i.e., regions with regional transmission organizations/independent system operators, or RTOs/ISOs). The conference focused on carbon pricing approaches where a state (or group of states) sets an explicit carbon price, whether through a price-based or quantity-based approach, and how that carbon price intersects with RTO/ISO-administered markets, addressing both legal and technical issues.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Environment, International Cooperation, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Mauricio Cardenas, Juan Jose Guzman Ayala
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: In 2020, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) will experience the most severe economic recession in decades. This paper looks at the challenges confronted by LAC and proposes a series of actions to structure a recovery plan that minimizes potential moral hazard effects while aligning fiscal, social, and environmental sustainability priorities.[1] High pre-pandemic sovereign debt levels, worsening credit ratings, and low tax revenues limit the much-needed fiscal space to overcome the present health and economic crises. Most countries in the region are at risk of losing two decades of progress in the fight against poverty and inequality, while their upper-middle income status makes them ineligible for debt relief and aid packages from advanced economies. The focus on solving the current crisis may also delay much-needed progress on climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, as well as overall improvements in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). We propose a combination of fiscal policy responses combined with new sources of financing to unlock a sharp recovery with minimal harm to fiscal sustainability in the long run. Through expanded public-private partnerships and blended finance structures, governments should be able to leverage private financing in large job-creation undertakings. Additionally, the issuance of SDG-linked sovereign debt and Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) with SDG conditionality could also provide much-needed liquidity at low cost.
  • Topic: Environment, International Cooperation, Global Recession, Sustainable Development Goals, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Caribbean, North America
  • Author: Noah Kaufman, Yu Ann Tan
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: Regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, which are global pollutants, should ideally be coordinated across broad geographic and economic scopes. That way, climate policies can capture important interactions across sectors and borders. However, the United States has repeatedly failed to implement national and economywide climate legislation. That failure has led to an increasing focus on climate actions that are much narrower in scope: sector-specific regulations from subnational governments. A prominent recent example is New York City’s Local Law 97, which limits carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a large segment of the city’s residential and commercial buildings. This law is among the most ambitious building emissions regulations in the world, but this commentary focuses on a concern with the design of Local Law 97. The law does not account for the planned decarbonization of the local electricity grid over the next decade, and thus fails to sufficiently encourage a shift from fossil fuels to electricity (or “electrification”), a critically important strategy for achieving a low-carbon building sector. Such a narrow focus is common for sector-specific climate regulations. The following sections explain the importance of electrification to deep decarbonization and the failure of building regulations to encourage it, focusing on New York City’s Local Law 97. Fortunately, solutions to the overly narrow focus of the New York City buildings law are readily available, including via New York State’s comprehensive climate strategy, which can align climate action across economic sectors within the state.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Law, Green Technology, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: New York, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jonathan Elkind, Erin Blanton, Robert Kleinberg, Anton Leemhuis
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: In August 2020, the Trump Administration finalized plans to roll back regulations on oil and gas industry emissions of methane from new and modified infrastructure. In the same month, the European Commission gathered stakeholder comments as part of its process to introduce the first EU-wide methane regulations. Though contradictory in direction, these regulatory processes on opposite sides of the Atlantic highlighted a critical climate protection challenge: How can the oil and gas industry—and the regulators who oversee it—best detect and address methane emissions to protect the environment and the climate in particular? The answer to this question will drive planning and operational approaches in the oil and gas industry. It could also significantly affect the future role of natural gas. Five years ago, many energy analysts expected natural gas to serve as a bridge fuel that would result in only half as much climate warming as coal, and fewer local air pollutants. Among other roles, gas was seen as a natural complement for variable wind or solar power—a way to provide firm, dispatchable, low-emissions power. Now that it is apparent that our understanding of methane emissions is poor, the climate implications of gas are far less clear. This poor grasp of methane emissions appears likely to become a thing of the past, however. In roughly the next five years, new satellite detection systems—used in concert with existing systems, aerial monitoring platforms, and ground-based monitors—can increase markedly the transparency surrounding methane leakage. The new wave of satellite monitoring capability has major implications for industry and governments. Our world is rapidly becoming a place in which methane emissions will have nowhere to hide. This commentary, co-authored by the Center on Global Energy Policy and TNO, focuses on detection and response to oil- and gas-related methane emissions, which have been the subject of increasing focus on the part of industry and the public policy community. It addresses the significance of methane emissions for the climate, and the challenges of detecting and accurately quantifying methane emissions. It then explores the evolving capabilities of satellite-based methane detection and monitoring systems, which are expected to advance rapidly in the coming years, and which can be especially powerful when used in concert with aerial and ground-based monitoring systems. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of the changing satellite detection landscape for the oil and gas industry, the finance and investment community, and the realm of public policy.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Gas, Finance, Methane
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: John Larsen
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: Putting a price on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions can help governments reduce them rapidly and in a cost-effective manner. While 10 carbon tax bills have been proposed in the 116th US Congress, carbon prices alone are not enough to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury. Additional policies are needed to complement an economy-wide carbon tax and further cut CO2 from the US energy system. This study aims to provide a better understanding of such policy combinations. It projects the energy CO2 emissions impacts of two carbon taxes, starting in 2021, that span the rates in the carbon tax bills in Congress. The “low” tax scenario starts at $30 per ton in 2021 and rises at 5 percent plus inflation per year, reaching $44 by 2030, while the “high” carbon tax starts at $15 per ton and rises $15 per year, reaching $150 by 2030. The paper then describes the barriers inhibiting emissions reductions beyond those achieved by the carbon taxes alone for each major sector: electricity, transportation, buildings, and industry. Finally, it explores the energy system changes needed to overcome those barriers and the policy interventions that could deliver those changes. For certain key energy system changes, it provides quantitative estimates of emissions reductions incremental to the two carbon taxes. This paper is part of a joint effort by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) and Rhodium Group to help policy makers and other stakeholders understand the important decisions associated with the design of carbon pricing policies and the implications of these decisions. The paper finds the emissions impacts of the low and high carbon taxes alone lead to economy-wide energy CO2 emissions reductions by 2030 of 33 percent and 41 percent, respectively, below 2005 levels. A carbon tax combined with policy actions that support comprehensive, ambitious energy system changes could lead to emissions reductions in the range of 40 to 45 percent, arguably consistent with US midcentury deep decarbonization goals for the energy system. In the 2020s, the bulk of these emissions reductions are likely to occur in the power sector, even under a broad decarbonization strategy, due to the significant barriers to large near-term emissions reductions in the transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Carbon Tax, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: On July 2, 2020, Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) and Harvard University jointly hosted a virtual roundtable on climate-oriented economic recovery and stimulus packages. Stakeholders included senior experts from universities and policy institutes as well as former high-level government officials. Key questions discussed at the roundtable, held under the Chatham House Rule, included the following: What are the appropriate objectives of economic stimulus and recovery packages? What clean energy lessons from the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act are most relevant to the design of economic stimulus legislation today? What climate and energy policies are best suited to deliver on both economic stimulus and climate objectives? How does near-term climate-oriented stimulus complement medium-term climate policy and yield progress on long-term climate goals? The following is an overview of the discussion.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Economic Recovery
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Aimee Barnes, Fan Dai, Angela Luh
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: Averting global climate catastrophe depends in large part on progress by the world’s two greatest powers and emitters: the United States and China. However, relations between these two countries—particularly on climate action—have deteriorated over the past four years. With a new presidential administration set to enter the White House in January 2021, there is an opportunity for the US and China to build trust and cooperation on climate change in a way that supports a cooperative and dynamic bilateral relationship more broadly. This commentary takes a close look at the Biden-Harris presidential platform with respect to climate action and China, and assesses China’s domestic and international climate efforts, particularly with respect to the status of its 14th Five-Year Plan. Importantly, what emerges from this examination is a starting point for China and the US to improve their relationship through climate action and collaboration. China’s announcement that it would seek to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 is an important step towards such cooperation.[1] The most promising potential areas for US-China cooperation fall into three broad categories: renewing a shared commitment to global climate governance under the Paris Agreement; building trust to enable renewed bilateral cooperation, such as on technology innovation and investments; and supporting subnational leaders' progress in both countries through platforms where they can productively convene. Recognizing that a climate-safe future is bound up in our mutuality, these two world powers can promote a new era of climate action and resiliency.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Diplomacy, Energy Policy, Environment, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America