The barrage from Beijing resembled the tit-for-tat criticism that China and the United States have traded on subjects such as human rights or trade or the expulsion of reporters and diplomats, but climate policies have been largely the exception. Not anymore.
China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, took aim at the United States, the world’s second biggest emitter, after the State Department on Sept. 25 issued a “China’s Environmental Abuses Fact Sheet,” which said that Beijing “threatens the global economy and global health by unsustainably exploiting natural resources and exporting its willful disregard for the environment through its One Belt One Road initiative.”
In the U.S. fact sheet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “too much of the Chinese Communist Party’s economy is built on willful disregard for air, land, and water quality. The Chinese people — and the world — deserve better.”
“This seems like a reminder that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” said Jason Bordoff, director of Columbia University’s global energy center. “We put out a statement attacking their environmental record and they put out an even stronger one, and the Trump administration has given them a lot to work with.”
He said the dueling attacks were “a reminder of how strained the U.S.-China relationship is, and there’s going to need to be a lot of work to be done to allow for a constructive relationship on climate moving forward.”
The relationship between China and the United States has been deteriorating for years. China has seized islands in the South China Sea, deploying military forces to the disputed territories. It has put in prison camps large numbers of Uighurs seen as possible threats. And it has pursued trade policies that have made it difficult for American companies to do business there.
During his administration, President Barack Obama managed to make climate change a key to the relationship and succeeded in wooing Beijing to support broad policies to slow the growth in greenhouse gases and shift the Chinese economy, as well as the U.S. economy, toward renewable sources of energy.
On Monday, however, China’s “fact sheet” reiterated many of the weak but well-known points in the U.S. climate policy. The United States has fallen behind China in emissions, but its emissions per capita are twice as high as China’s, whose population is five times greater. China also criticized Trump for rolling back nearly 70 domestic policies — signaling the pullout from the Paris climate accord — and failing to honor the U.S. agreement to pay its share of Green Climate Fund contributions. It said the United States amounts for 95.7 percent of total international arrears to the fund.
The ministry also said that “due to the negative stance of the U.S.,” summit meetings of the world’s 20 largest economies had “failed to reach consensus on climate change for three consecutive…