The US-China Rift Moves Climate Politics Into an Era of Competition

(Bloomberg) --

This month's biggest climate milestones happened over one weekend. On Sunday, the US Senate approved hundreds of billions of dollars in climate and clean-energy spending. Just two days before, climate cooperation between the US and China — the world’s largest economies and emitters — came to an abrupt halt.

How these two turning points shake out will determine the fate of global climate goals.

The end of climate cooperation between Beijing and Washington came Friday when, in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China suspended climate talks. The move wrecks a dialogue that was pivotal in securing the 2015 Paris Agreement and, more recently, yielded diplomatic momentum on curbing methane at last year’s COP26 climate summit.

To longtime observers of China-US relations on climate, there’s real cause for alarm. “The signal China is sending is clearly that a geopolitical red line has been crossed,” said Li Shuo, a climate analyst at Greenpeace East Asia. China’s willingness to work with the US on climate had previously managed to survive a trade war. “We know that when major countries, in particular, cannot get along with each other then that's certainly bad news for the climate agenda,” he said.