China's journey from Beijing to NY to Paris: Changhua Wu on President Xi Jinping's first US state visit

Reading time: 6 minutes
23 September 2015

As President Xi Jinping lands in the US for his first State visit today, Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group, reflects on progress that has been made between the two countries and how far this closely-watched bilateral partnership will push success at Paris and in the crucial years that follow.

The journey to Paris and beyond has started for China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has just arrived in Seattle as part of his first State visit to the US, where he will also give his first speech at the UN headquarters next Monday, following meetings with US President Obama on Thursday and Friday. A key part of his agenda in the US is climate change and ecological civilization.

Over the past 18 months China and US cooperation on climate change has been heard, loud and clear from afar. It is widely known that the world's two biggest economies and GHG emitters have decided to work in partnership to lead a global clean revolution.

On a bilateral front, dozens of deals have been inked at the sub-national and business levels since the journey was officially kicked off last Fall in Beijing at the APEC Summit.

This was the moment when both Presidents met with media and stated their commitments, not only to jointly take more aggressive action domestically, but also actively engage other countries for a successful outcome at the global COP21 climate talks in Paris later this year.

leadership on climate

China's national commitment, or INDC, was announced at the end of June in Paris by Premier Li Keqiang, during the EU-China annual summit. Commitments such as capping emissions no later than 2030, reaching 20% non-fossil fuels in its energy structure by 2030 and increasing forest and vegetation coverage of land to enhance carbon sink, are among the key targets from China.

While consistent with its current domestic efforts, China already has the world's largest market of clean technologies, PE/VC investment and low carbon infrastructure. On the other hand, the US’s Clean Power Program is expected to lay the foundation for its low carbon energy transition.

All those commitments are expected to create much larger momentum to transform the two largest economies - and also attract technology innovation and capital flow toward a sustainable future.

Both countries' climate action also aligns very well with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris climate agreement process.

The UN SDGs include 17 major categories of goals that would bring the global community together to pursue a totally different development paradigm; away from the 'Second Industrial Revolution' toward the Third Industrial Revolution. By this the government means connecting innovations in digital technology to established and new sectors in order to drive their economic growth. Developing countries in particular have a chance to leapfrog into infrastructure that is smarter and more sustainable.

sustainable development

So what shall we expect from this month's biggest ever “carnival” of sustainable development, and in the 10 weeks leading up to Paris?

Lots of high-level talks; bilateral deals like those between US and China; and commitments, from both businesses and sub-national governments, as well as more countries leading up to Paris. Excitement seems everywhere.

But what is really required post-2015 when the carnival is over? Actions and deliveries.

By now, we know that technologies are not the hurdles. There is plenty of capital around. And new opportunities to grow have been identified everywhere. Yet why have they not yet been scaled up? This is really where we need to be focusing our attention. And this what is needed:

1. First, a well-articulated overarching vision or story, like the Third Industrial Revolution story told by Jeremy Rifkin and the Carbon Positive story designed by William McDonough. When countries and regions make their plans, decision makers must ensure they've thought through how these plans work within a systemic framework. The Governmet of China's Internet+ and EU’s Digital Europe initiatives are great but require further 'overarching' development.

2. Second, those stories need to be designed and built up in cities and regions, and also in different sectors. We have technologies, engineers and solutions, but systemic thinking is required to lay the infrastructure able to accommodate the plug-ins of various parts of the economy.

3. Third, we must innovate to develop sound business models. We are talking about new opportunities to grow here, not just charity. This is where all stakeholders are required to step in and be part of a low carbon future.

And very importantly, we now have adequate desire and aspiration to transform our economy from the global, national and regional level to secure this new future.

toward paris

The UN SDGs this month are expected to offer a global political and policy guidance for countries, industrialized or developing, to develop their economies in line with ecological civilization.

Then COP21 in Paris this December is expected to build up consensus and momentum for public and private sectors all over the world to take real climate action.

US-China bilateral partnership sends the world a clear signal aligned with both of these pathways; that the global economy will be smart, more prosperous and sustainable because the two largest economies are now jointly taking the lead.

As a commentator of current affairs in sustainable development, I feel encouraged and inspired by what is unfolding in China. I feel obligated to support the leadership to explore the new business model of sustainable development, beyond Paris.

But why wait? Let's take action today.

This week in New York, The Climate Group is convening our 7th annual Climate Week NYC, where leaders from around the world meet to share their vision and commitments for a low carbon future. See the 100+ events happening - many of which can be enjoyed online - by visiting

Whatever progresses between US and China, be part of the most important year for climate action in history.


#CWNYC 2015

Climate Week NYC is a key event in the international calendar that brings together leading governments, investors, businesses, innovators and opinion formers. The Climate Group launched Climate Week NYC in 2009, and has acted as the secretariat since its inception.

Host to more than 100 affiliate events from September 21-28, Climate Week NYC 2015 is the collaborative space for climate events in support of the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Climate Week NYC 2015 is supported by BT Group, Siemens, Procter & Gamble, Nike, SkyPower, SolarCity, CBRE Group, and Bank of the West - BNP Paribas; and the We Mean Business coalition members: BSR, The B Team, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and WBCSD. | @ClimateWeekNYC | #CWNYC

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