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Cover of the report 'Accelerating Decarbonization in China and USA through Bilateral Collaboration'

In October 2021, Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford Center at Peking University, and Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center’s China Program partnered with Peking University’s Institute of Energy to organize a series of roundtables intended to promote discussion around how China and the United States can accelerate decarbonization and cooperate with one another to meet their carbon neutrality goals by mid-century. The thematic areas included U.S.- China collaboration on climate change, global sustainable finance, corporate climate pledges, and the opportunities and challenges for the acceleration of decarbonization in both countries in general, as well as specifically for the power, transportation, and industry sectors.

The roundtable series brought together leading American and Chinese current and former officials, and experts in the public and private sectors working on energy, climate, the environment, industry, transportation, and finance. This report reviews the key themes and takeaways that emerged from the closed-door discussions. It builds on the “U.S.-China Joint Statement Addressing the Climate Crisis” released by the U.S. Department of State on April 17, 2021 and shares some common themes with the “U.S.-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s” released on November 10, 2021.

This report further identifies more concrete and additional promising areas for accelerated decarbonization and bilateral collaboration, as well as the obstacles to be tackled, including institutional, political, and financial constraints. This report could serve as a basis for concrete goals and measures for future U.S.-China cooperation on energy and the climate. It also highlights the contributions universities can make to the global energy transition. The roundtable series identifies areas most critical or potent for bilateral collaboration, paving the way for concrete action plans at the national, local, and sectoral levels. Section 1 offers a brief overview of the acceleration of decarbonization in the U.S. and in China. Section 2 identifies the opportunities and challenges of U.S.-China cooperation on climate change. Sections 3-7 delve into specific promising areas for accelerated decarbonization and opportunities and hurdles for bilateral collaboration in corporate, finance, power, transportation, and industrial sectors.

This report is not a comprehensive review of all the relevant areas pertaining to decarbonization in China and the U.S. and bilateral collaboration on climate change. For example, this roundtable series focused on climate mitigation. Another strategy to respond to climate change is adaption, which we reserve for potential future discussion in a separate report. Additionally, the focus of this report is on energy. Important measures such as reforestation as a carbon sink are reserved for separate discussions. The views expressed in this report represent those of the participants at the roundtable series and do not necessarily represent the positions of the organizing institutions. Chatham House rules were used throughout the roundtables to facilitate open and frank discussion, so views are not attributed to individual participants

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Stanford Energy
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Shiran Victoria Shen
Jean C. Oi
Yi Cui
Zhijun Jin
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Kat Tchebotareva
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The Stanford Center at Peking University (SCPKU) held its second annual Lee Shau Kee World Leaders Forum at the center on Oct 13.  This year’s conference, titled “Climate Change and Clean Energy,” was keynoted by Dr. Steven Chu, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology in the Medical School at Stanford University; the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy; and co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for laser cooling and atom trapping.  Two panel discussions with a diverse set of experts from academia, government, and industry were also part of the event.

After welcoming remarks by SCPKU Director Jean C. Oi and Xiamen University Dean of the School of Energy Research Ning Li, the conference kicked off with the first panel, “Paths to Clean Energy” which centered around two questions:  Is renewable energy feasible and how does China move away from coal as a dominant energy source?  The second panel, “Challenges and Opportunities to Clean Energy,” focused on barriers preventing China from being progressive on climate change.   China’s National Energy Advisory Committee, British Petroleum-China, and the U.S. Commission on Natural Resources Protection were among the organizations represented by panelists.

 

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Panelists discuss climate change and clean energy at SCPKU's World Leaders Forum held October 13.
Courtesy of Stanford University

 

Steven Chu’s keynote wrapped up the forum, which touched on new data reflecting the risks of climate change and the need to continue progress on the development of clean energy.  Regarding the pressing issue of pollution, he cited data from a British study inferring that the risk of contracting lung cancer is 29x higher in Beijing than other cities and highlighted Stanford’s research on nano-fiber filtration as a possible solution.  Chu also spoke on the topic of energy storage and how the full cost of renewable energy needs to account for backup generation capacity, transmission and distribution systems, as well as the storage itself.  Two things, he said, will likely play large roles in the future: high voltage lines (HVDC), and machine learning, which will be needed for largely autonomous management of the electrical grid.  Nuclear energy will also be important to mitigate blackouts when transitioning to clean energy.  In closing, Chu shared a poignant phrase from ancient Native Americans: “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” 
 

The purpose of the forum is to raise public understanding of the complex issues China and other countries face in the course of development.  Funded by a generous gift from the Lee Shau Kee Foundation, the forum seeks to increase support for Asia-Pacific cooperation and turn ideas into action.  

 

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Steven Chu poses with SCPKU World Leaders Forum attendees after delivering keynote.
Courtesy of Stanford University

 

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Reception following SCPKU's World Leaders Forum featuring the China National Symphony Orchestra Concert Quartet in
the center's courtyard.
Courtesy of Stanford University

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