Most US voters want Joe Biden to work with China on climate change

Biden (above) has put climate at the heart of his domestic and foreign policy. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - Nearly six out of 10 voters in the United States said the Biden administration should work directly with China to address climate change, according to a survey published on Tuesday (Feb 2).

The poll released by the Asia Society Policy Institute and Data for Progress found 56 per cent of respondents wanted cooperation with China on climate change, seeing it as more important than all other issues bar nuclear disarmament, including Covid-19.

President Joe Biden has put climate at the heart of his domestic and foreign policy, including rejoining the global Paris Agreement and naming former Secretary of State John Kerry as the US special climate envoy.

The United States and China are the world's two largest contributors to climate change and combined are responsible for 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

"Some level of cooperation between the two largest emitters obviously has a massive impact, both on their own behaviour and that of other countries," said Thom Woodroofe, a senior adviser to the president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

"There's a degree of sophistication and understanding on the part of the electorate which is quite widespread across the partisan aisle," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Surveying 1,040 people in December 2020, the poll found 69 per cent of voters believed if China takes more action to address climate change then the United States should follow suit.

It found 62 per cent supported Biden's campaign pledge to hold China "accountable" to its climate commitments, such as becoming carbon-neutral by 2060.

Kerry told a press conference last week that the United States would work with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed they would not trade other pressing concerns to make progress on climate.

In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said cooperation on a specific area cannot be separated from bilateral relations as a whole.

Despite the complicated dynamics, the nations' "mutual interests in addressing climate change" means they should eventually find a way forward, said David Waskow, director of the international climate initiative at the World Resources Institute.

"The case is that it's going to be to the economic benefit of both countries to take climate action," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, citing new jobs, reductions in emissions and resilience against the impacts of climate change.

In the survey, US voters were particularly supportive of cooperation on clean energy technologies, with 52 per cent saying partnering with China to increase its development would be beneficial to the US economy.

Through "a race to the top", each will benefit from innovations in areas from electric vehicles to clean hydrogen, Waskow said.

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