U.S. and China on Climate: How the World’s Two Largest Polluters Stack Up
Reporting from Beijing John Kerry, President Bidens climate change envoy, wraps up high-level talks with Chinese officials on Wednesday aimed at finding ways to work together on climate change despite simmering tensions between the two world powers. The United States and China are the worlds largest greenhouse gas emitters as well as the worlds green tech powerhouses. If they can agree to speed plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it could be consequential for the worlds ability to stay within safe limits of global warming. But there are significant hurdles, including longstanding tensions over Chinas insistence that it is a developing country that should have more leeway to pollute, and U.S. efforts to challenge Chinas dominance in clean technology manufacturing. In recent years, Chinese officials have also warned that broader disputes in the bilateral relationship, which Beijing has blamed largely on the United States, will undermine cooperation on combating climate change. Here are some figures that illustrate the complex energy relationship between the United States and China. China, the worlds biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, produces of emissions annually. That dwarfs U.S. emissions, currently about annually. Still, those numbers dont tell the whole story. Since 1850, China has emitted of carbon dioxide. But the United States, which industrialized far earlier, has released almost that amount: of emissions. In the climate negotiations, cumulative emissions are considered a point of accountability: countries with higher historic emissions have a higher burden of responding. The average Chinese person uses far less energy than the average American, about of carbon pollution annually compared to in the U.S., according to analyses from the Rhodium Group. Under the Obama administration, the United States agreed to cut emissions at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. President Biden beefed up that target, promising the United States would slash emissions from those levels . The United States also promised to . China promised in the Paris Agreement to reach its It also pledged to increase the share of its non-fossil fuel energy like wind, solar and nuclear, to 25 percent. In 2021, President Xi Jinping of China said the country would . Analysts have said the United States has put itself within striking distance of meeting its 2030 goal with new laws and regulations. Those include in clean energy investments through the , which Mr. Biden signed last year, and pending restrictions on emissions from automobile tailpipes and electricity generation. China is also on track to meet its near-term goals, despite a in the construction of coal-fired power plants. China has included domestic climate targets in its most recent five-year plan, including ensuring that make up of energy consumption and of installed generation. The United States consumes t of the worlds oil and China consumes about . The United States is also a top oil exporter. China imports most of its oil. In the United States, a shift from coal to natural gas, a cheaper resource, has helped lower greenhouse gas emissions. now accounts for about of energy use in the United States. In China, natural gas, most of it imported, accounts for of its energy mix, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association. The United States has not built a new coal plant . There has been a decline in coal-fired power generation in America over the last decade, according to the Energy Information Administration. China . A study last year found China permitted a total of 106 gigawatts of new coal power projects in 2022, the equivalent of two large coal power plants per week. China manufactures than any other nation. In 2022 China invested into clean energy. The United States invested Chinas renewables capacity surpassed , four times what it had a decade earlier. Wind and solar now and forecasts predict the country will add up to 150 gigawatts soon. Hydropower accounts for 16 percent of Chinas power generation and nuclear energy provides 5 percent. One in four cars sold in China last year was an electric vehicle. In the United States, wind, solar, hydroelectric power and other forms of renewable power accounted for of the energy mix in 2021. In the United States, new cars sold last year was electric. Under the , the United States is poised to invest into wind, solar, green hydrogen, nuclear energy and other non-fossil fuel power. reports on federal climate and environmental policy from Washington. She has broken multiple stories about the Trump administrations efforts to repeal climate change regulations and limit the use of science in policymaking.