Chance for a green alliance that could still save the world

A A A

Maybe we are on the brink of one of those rare moments that transform the world for the better. For the Obama administration's moves to forge a climate partnership with China offer much the best chance yet of averting the most serious crisis civilisation has faced.

Hillary Clinton's visit to Beijing next week could prove far more important than President Nixon's "China initiative", which opened up the giant country to the world almost 40 years ago.

There is absolutely no hope of even beginning to get to grips with global warming without the United States and China, which between them account for nearly half of the world's emissions of carbon dioxide. Yet – even as science shows that time to avoid catastrophic climate change is running out – international negotiations on a new treaty have been paralysed by a deadly game of "after you, Claude", where both countries have refused to budge unless the other acts first.

If the partnership comes off, the relationship could be transformed, so that – as David Sandalow, a member of the Obama transition team who has just co-authored a new report, puts it – "instead of each country pointing to the other as a reason to do less, they spur each other on to do more". At the least, it would revolutionise the hitherto fragile prospects of international agreement at a vital meeting in Copenhagen in December, billed as the last chance to avoid disaster.

There are reasons to hope. Both countries are increasingly worried about the effects of global warming, whether droughts in California and northern China, or floods in southern China or New Orleans. More important, both have been doing a surprising amount while officially remaining obdurate.

Despite former President Bush's oil-soaked obstinacy, more than half of US states have acted to cut emissions, and more than 800 towns and cities have promised to meet or beat Kyoto Protocol targets. In a neat mirror image, the Chinese government has been admirably active – sparking a renewable energy boom and promising to cut the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of GDP by a fifth by 2010 – while finding it hard to get local governments to co-operate. With President Obama promising big emissions cuts, a deal seems possible.

Huge obstacles remain. Each country fears the other will use climate measures to obtain competitive advantage. And each is struggling with financial turmoil. So the best approach will be to emphasise the economic advantages in adopting a green new deal as the way to stimulate future growth.

Clean energy is central to this, and is rapidly expanding in both countries. So the place to start may be to focus on the opportunities to increase prosperity and reduce pollution through jointly developing things such as electric cars, boosting energy efficiency and renewable energy, and finding ways to clean up coal.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference