Writing in the Washington Post last Sunday (Clearing the Air With China), Orville Schell made this proposal for China and US co-operation:
How should we proceed? By forming a coalition of respected scientists, business leaders and policy experts, calling a high-level emergency summit with their counterparts in China and then enlisting the U.S. presidential candidates to pledge to make the coal/climate change issue a priority. The ultimate goal should be to undertake a $25 billion collaborative effort, with the United States providing capital, technological know-how and entrepreneurial and managerial skills and China providing some resources of its own, research, critical leadership among developing countries, its low-cost manufacturing base and its prodigious market energy.Schell is probably be right to highlight the future of coal as a central technical challenge. Sachs picked up on this too, emphasising the potential importance of carbon capture and storage. But in the question and answer session after Sach's lecture it was questions of governance and politics that came to the fore, not least in a question from Ma Jun.
Last November I wrote on chinadialogue that it was time for a politics of climate change in China. I do think that political issues are still a central challenge [see note 1 below] -- a point that appears reinforced by the reported role of the Chinese government, among others, in watering down the summary of IPCC WGII (climate impacts).
For this reason I would add to the list for Schell's coalition civil society actors and (to the surprise of some)...the military. As noted on this blog here, it does look like people with influence on the US military really are beginning to 'get' the issues, and it would be nice to think they might engage with their Chinese counterparts.
So, note to Schell et al: please add the likes of Ma Jun and Anthony C. Zinni to the list of candidates for your coalition.
[Note 1: 'political' in both a narrow and a broad sense, the broad one being politics, culture and values as they interact with and within the technological and scientific sphere. In this case, cultural change might thrive on a 'Gramsci-Schwarzenegger dialectic', synthesising (an ahimsa mediated version of) Antonio's insights into the importance of culture with Arnie on being hip.]
[P.S. 20 April: On ClimatePolicy Paul Higgins asks So what's the problem with China?]
[P.S. 24 April: The Financial Times reports 'China delays climate change plan indefinitely'. See here.]