As has been widely reported, on November 12 President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping released a joint announcement on climate change and clean energy cooperation.  Beyond the announced greenhouse gas emission targets—for the U.S., to reduce emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025; for China, (i) to peak CO2 emissions by around 2030, with the intention to try to peak earlier, and (ii) to increase the non-fossil fuel share of primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030—we note the following.

Differing reporting in the U.S. and China.  The climate announcement received starkly different emphasis in U.S. and Chinese media.  In the United States, the announcement was the lead or among the lead news stories in all major outlets we surveyed, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.  In China, People’s Daily led with Obama’s and Xi’s talks generally, with the two parties reaffirming their goal, expressed at the Sunnylands Summit in 2013, of developing a “new pattern of major power relations” between the two counties—but placed news of the emissions announcement in a separate story on page 2.  Jiefang Daily gave similar treatment to the announcement.  Cankao News, which has a conservative reputation, likewise discussed the emissions targets on the second page of the lead story.  And Beijing News, which is considered more liberal, mentioned the climate announcement in the lead’s subtitle, but only discussed its substance on the third page of coverage of the talks, on page 8 of Thursday’s edition.  (Links to Chinese editions.)

The contrasting coverage reflects different economic and political contexts in the two nations.  Beyond the substance of the agreement and fact that China is for the first time publicly stating a specific goal to peak emissions, the story’s heightened newsworthiness in the United States also likely reflects the American media’s sense of surprise, the back story of secret climate negotiations, economic tension between federal mandates and free markets, the chronically polarized politics of U.S. climate and energy policy, and the currently heightened executive vs. legislative branch posturing following last week’s elections.  By contrast in China, secrecy and surprise of policy announcements are common, national economic planning with detailed, prescriptive goals is a foundation of the economy, and divided government and partisan politics are non-existent.  To the extent that the announcement was important inside China, it seemed important for instrumental reasons—because, together with the broader dialogue of mutual cooperation, it demonstrated China’s stature in the bilateral relationship—not primarily because action on climate change is important for its own sake.

Implications for Paris 2015.   The joint announcement has been described as an important break-through leading-up to next year’s global climate talks.  With the world’s largest carbon emitters staking out goals to reduce carbon emissions, lesser emitters will find it more difficult to resist similar commitments.  More significantly, the joint announcement has served to establish China as standard-setter, together with the United States.  Its stature already established, China should be less inclined to oppose the United States in Paris for the sake of demonstrating its influence in multilateral negotiations.

 

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Photo of Daniel B. Levine Daniel B. Levine

Dan Levine has advised clients in strategic and financial transactions, principally involving China, for more than 17 years. He focuses his practice on inbound and outbound M&A, joint ventures, private equity and venture capital investments, and technology licensing transactions.

Dan provides strategic and…

Dan Levine has advised clients in strategic and financial transactions, principally involving China, for more than 17 years. He focuses his practice on inbound and outbound M&A, joint ventures, private equity and venture capital investments, and technology licensing transactions.

Dan provides strategic and transactional advice to Chinese and Western clients navigating critical political, legal, and regulatory hurdles to their international strategies—including national security reviews conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), China’s outbound investment review process, the U.S.’s proposed outbound investment screening regime, China’s overseas listing rules, and export controls.

Dan has extensive experience in the clean energy, life sciences, and technology sectors. In recent years this has included:

  • counseling leading global electric vehicle battery and energy storage companies with respect to incentive programs under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act;
  • advising a leading global medical device company in a joint venture with a Chinese state-owned entity to develop and commercialize imaging equipment in China; and
  • advising a Chinese gene therapy company in a complex pre-IPO outbound acquisition.

Dan’s pro bono work includes representing U.S. health care professionals and Chinese companies to procure and supply personal protective equipment from China to the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dan reads, writes, and speaks Mandarin and has lived in China for extended periods since 2001, including when resident in Covington’s Shanghai office from 2013-2022.

Photo of Ashwin Kaja Ashwin Kaja

With over a decade of experience in China, Ashwin Kaja helps multinational companies, governments, and other clients understand and navigate the complex legal and policy landscape in the country. He plays a leading role in Covington’s China international trade and public policy practices…

With over a decade of experience in China, Ashwin Kaja helps multinational companies, governments, and other clients understand and navigate the complex legal and policy landscape in the country. He plays a leading role in Covington’s China international trade and public policy practices and, outside of Covington, serves as the General Counsel of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

Ashwin helps clients solve acute problems that arise in the course of doing business in China and position themselves for longer-term success in the country’s rapidly evolving legal and policy environment. He is an expert on Chinese industrial policy and has worked on matters related to a wide range of sectors including technology, financial services, life sciences, and the social sector. Ashwin has also counseled a range of clients on data privacy and cybersecurity-related matters.

As the General Counsel of the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China), Ashwin serves as a senior officer of the organization and as an ex officio member of its Board of Governors, supporting nearly one thousand member companies in developing their businesses in China and advocating for their needs with China’s central and local governments.