China signals its global intentions on climate change during a flurry of high level meetings

Autora: Stephanie Jensen-Cormier

Latin America and the Caribbean is home to ecosystems like the Amazon tropical forest and high altitude Andean habitat which are key in fighting the worst impacts of climate change while simultaneously particularly sensitive to its impacts. In fact, the Amazon absorbs 5% of our current global C02 emissions. Over the past 15 months LAC countries have suffered greatly from the covid-19 pandemic. The most vulnerable in LAC have been hit the hardest and it is estimated that the number of people in extreme poverty will increase by 8 million. Economic and social development and GDP per capita will be set back by a decade. Plans for recovery must not only confront the health and economic repercussions but also take a longer term approach by being green and sustainable.

It is in this context that a series of meetings between the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases — China and the US — are of great interest. The USA and China will both seek to use the climate change agenda to advance broader foreign policy objectives.  It is clear that both countries are seeking to counter the influence of the other.  The Biden administration provides a partner for collaboration and also inherent competition for China as they both tackle climate change.

China’s statements at meetings over the past weeks reaffirm its commitments to reduce domestic emissions and coal consumption. While these are important and necessary commitments, they do not translate to China’s investments overseas, including China’s involvement in Latin America.

This blog reviews the events of recent weeks and offers a few concluding thoughts.