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Asia, Energy and Environment

Why China’s New Climate Commitments Matter for U.S. National Security

Scott Moore, October 15, 2020

In the West, China’s surprise climate pledge spurred rapturous praise from some environmentalists, who portrayed it as a way to save the faltering Paris Agreement following the United States’s withdrawal. Most reactions, however, were more cautious, with energy and climate experts warning that achieving carbon neutrality for China entails daunting obstacles and should be treated with skepticism. And many China-watchers cast Xi’s announcement as more a geopolitical than an environmental gambit. By making a far-off climate pledge, several observers noted, China could boost its strained credibility with European powers and further isolate the United States without needing to take any immediate action. Both the environmental and geopolitical critiques, though, are a bit wide of the mark. China’s new climate pledge does have serious national security implications for the United States and its allies—but more for technological and economic reasons than for environmental or geopolitical ones.

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