Facing the challenge of the climate crisis, no relationship is more crucial than the one between China and the United States," said Chinese President Xi Jinping during the meeting with U.S. President Biden at the Phyllores Manor in San Francisco on November 15. The two leaders exchanged views candidly on strategic, global, and directional issues concerning the China-U.S. relationship, as well as significant global issues related to peace and development.
On the same day, both China and the United States issued the "Sunshine Homeland Declaration" on strengthening cooperation to address the climate crisis. The declaration reviews, reaffirms, and commits to further effective and continuous implementation of the joint statement on climate crisis response issued in April 2021 and the Glasgow Joint Declaration on strengthening climate action in the 2020s issued in November 2021.
Climate issues have consistently been a focal point in China-U.S. dialogues. With the release of the joint declaration, it is anticipated that there will be increased collaboration between China and the U.S. in areas such as energy transition and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, considering the global consensus on addressing climate change.
"This clearly requires efforts in implementation," noted the public opinion, acknowledging the groundbreaking significance of the Sunshine Homeland Declaration. An executive at the Energy Foundation and President of its China branch, Zou Ji, expressed that against the backdrop of significant global changes, the declaration is a milestone with profound implications. It signifies a genuine, clear, extensive, and significant bilateral and multilateral cooperation basis between China and the U.S., presenting cooperation as the correct choice for the practice of China-U.S. relations, a positive starting point, and a signal boosting confidence.
The Sunshine Homeland Declaration outlines the future action plan for climate cooperation between China and the U.S. It proposes the initiation of a "Climate Action Working Group for the 2020s," aiming to accelerate specific climate actions during this decade.
"This approach was not present in previous statements," noted Yang Fuqiang, a distinguished researcher at Peking University's Institute of Energy, indicating a need for concrete efforts in implementation. In the future, China and the U.S. will, under the leadership of the working group, focus on expediting specific actions, particularly feasible and substantial cooperation plans and projects.
According to the declaration, both countries will prioritize accelerating specific actions in eight areas before and after COP28. These include not only hot topics like energy transition, methane, circular economy, and resource utilization efficiency but also emphasize strengthening local cooperation.
"In the future, China and the U.S. will support provinces, states, and cities in conducting climate cooperation, promoting the active participation of governments, businesses, think tanks, and other stakeholders. Previous bottom-up cooperation between China and the U.S. has been carried out, and this is easier to implement. The visit of the governor of California to China and the visits to some provinces and cities in China clearly illustrate the broad space for cooperation at the local level, which can be a crucial foundation for solidifying the cooperative relationship between the two countries," said Yang Fuqiang.
The Sunshine Homeland Declaration states that during this crucial decade of the 2020s, both countries will support efforts as outlined in the G20 leaders' declaration to strive for tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030. They plan to substantially accelerate their respective renewable energy deployments from the 2020 levels to achieve meaningful absolute reductions in power sector emissions after peaking.
The efforts made by China and the U.S. in climate action are expected to have a profound impact on global climate change response, influencing and promoting the energy transition and green development worldwide.
Yang Fuqiang pointed out, "The progress of previous climate negotiation conferences reflects the influence of China-U.S. relations on negotiations. If the two countries reach consensus, they can push forward practical actions in response to climate change while advancing the global climate conference negotiation process. At this point, the release of the Sunshine Homeland Declaration will have a positive impact on the upcoming COP28 conference in Dubai."
Externally, it is perceived that the positive statements and considerable sincerity shown by China and the U.S. in climate cooperation are essential. The unity of China and the U.S. is seen as a "prerequisite" for further progress in global climate action and green transformation. Laurie Milner, Chief Analyst at the Center for Energy and Clean Air, stated, "The actions of China and the U.S. have created favorable conditions for achieving climate goals."
The Royal Institute of International Affairs in the UK also believes that China and the U.S. overcoming differences and collaborating for the future of the Earth will inevitably have positive ripple effects on other countries and regions.
Liu Hanyuan, Vice Chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Tongwei Group, pointed out, "Promoting global energy transition is a common development direction. To achieve this goal, we need to be pragmatic, inclusive, weigh pros and cons comprehensively, and achieve win-win cooperation. Currently, major segments of our country's photovoltaic manufacturing industry account for over 80% of the global capacity, providing crucial industrial support for global energy transition. The Chinese photovoltaic industry has the conditions and capabilities to drive energy transition. We especially hope to deepen exchanges with countries such as Europe, the United States, Japan, and South Korea, jointly promoting global energy transition and facilitating global progress toward green and sustainable development."
While the global situation regarding climate change remains challenging, the latest report from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat, released on November 15, indicates that the climate action plans currently formulated by countries are still insufficient to control global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius or achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that the report shows the world is still unable to avoid the most serious climate disasters. "Now is the time for climate ambitions at every level – in every country, city, and industry," he emphasized.
Industry experts believe that the Sunshine Homeland Declaration clearly outlines the efforts in key areas such as energy transition, methane, and other non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, bringing new opportunities for future climate cooperation between China and the U.S., and even promoting global energy transition.
Liu Hanyuan believes that addressing climate change has become a global consensus and a prevailing trend. In this process, renewable energy, represented by photovoltaics, is undoubtedly the main force. "In the future, Chinese enterprises will continue to leverage their manufacturing advantages while promoting Chinese capital, technology, and industry to actively participate in the global energy transition process, helping to elevate the global photovoltaic ecosystem to a new level and making a positive contribution to achieving global climate goals."
Eric Solheim, Chairman of the Belt and Road Green Development International Alliance, expressed excitement about the latest developments in the Chinese photovoltaic industry. He hopes that in the future, the Chinese photovoltaic industry will continue to 'go global' and invest in Europe, Africa, Asia, and other regions.
While developing renewable energy, it is essential to advance the development of methane and Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) technologies. The Sunshine Homeland Declaration signifies that China and the U.S. will engage in practical cooperation in controlling greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane emissions.
Kang Junjie, Associate Research Fellow at Peking University's Institute of Energy, stated, "The Sunshine Homeland Declaration sets the goal of 'advancing at least five large-scale CCUS projects in various industrial and energy sectors by 2030.' This conveys an important message that achieving carbon neutrality requires a 'two-pronged approach,' one is to reduce emissions at the front end, and the other is to actively promote carbon capture at the back end."
Yang Fuqiang added, "Regarding the action plan for methane emissions, the two countries can engage in policy dialogue, exchange technical solutions, and build capacity. China's energy sector, especially methane emissions during coal production, and the methane emissions, particularly from unconventional natural gas production in the United States, offer areas where the two countries can enhance exchanges in terms of policies, equipment, and technology.
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