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Data: Global Carbon Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

Partner? Rival? When it comes to China and climate policy, the White House answer to both questions seems to be yes.

Driving the news: The last few days underscore the delicate role that China is playing in White House climate efforts.

John Kerry, President Biden's special climate envoy, told CNBC that acting on climate is a "huge economic opportunity" for people worldwide and added:

  • "This is not about China, this is not a counter to China. This is about China, the United States, India, Russia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Australia, a bunch of countries that are emitting a pretty sizable amount, the United States and China the most."
  • And via Reuters, Kerry also told reporters on the same weekend visit with officials in Abu Dhabi that the U.S. is hopeful about working with China on climate despite major tensions on several other topics.

Yes, but: Competition with China is a not-subtle part of the White House's domestic sales pitch for its $2 trillion-plus economic plan that's heavy on clean energy infrastructure, manufacturing and R&D.

  • The White House summary of the plan calls it a way to "create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China." (Emphasis added.)
  • The proposal last week also calls the investments a way to meet the climate crisis and the "ambitions of an autocratic China."

Why it matters: Check out the chart above via the Global Carbon Project, a research consortium. Steeply cutting global emissions is hopeless without major cuts from the U.S. and China, which together comprise over 40% of worldwide CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.

  • So that means diplomatic spadework as the administration joins others in pressing China to transform its ambitions (including carbon neutrality by 2060) into more concrete steps.
  • But it also means enacting new domestic policies, and for the White House, part of that push is talking up the country's ability to compete in growing clean energy tech markets.
Expand chart
Data: Global Carbon Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

One thing that's tricky about climate diplomacy is balancing responsibility for today's emissions levels against historical CO2 output.

The big picture: The graphic above, also via Global Carbon Project data, puts China's rise into the world's largest emitter by far into perspective.

Go deeper

Column / Harder Line

In uneven economic recovery, climate action risks leaving some behind

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A year ago, almost all of us were grappling with the unknowns of the pandemic. Today, some of us are doing just fine, while others are still reeling.

Why it matters: This split-screen economy, called a K-shaped recovery, highlights the risk facing politicians, including President Biden, as they rally around bold climate action. If new climate laws aren’t inclusive of those less well off in America and around the world, they risk exacerbating inequality.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Apr 5, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Energy industry heavyweights boost carbon price lobbying

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

CEO Climate Dialogue, a two-year-old group that includes execs from giant energy and industrial companies, has brought on lobbying powerhouse Forbes-Tate.

Why it matters: The newly public filing highlights the increased K Street activity around pricing since President Biden's win opened the door for new climate legislation.

Super typhoon Surigae explodes to Cat. 5 intensity

Super Typhoon Surigae seen on satellite imagery Saturday morning east of the Philippines. (CIRA/RAMMB)

Super Typhoon Surigae surged in intensity from a Category 1 storm on Friday to a beastly Category 5 monster on Saturday, with maximum sustained winds estimated at 190 mph with higher gusts.

Why it matters: This storm — known as Typhoon Bising in the Philippines — is just the latest of many tropical cyclones to undergo a process known as rapid intensification, a feat that studies show is becoming more common due to climate change. It weakened slightly, to the equivalent of a strong Category 4 storm, on Sunday.