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October 20, 2021

U.S.-China Engagement on Climate Change: Opportunities, Obstacles, and Best Practice

Event Series: Asia-Pacific Dialogue Series

Showing the U.S.-China Engagement on Climate Change: Opportunities, Obstacles, and Best Practice Video

In recent years, both China and the United States have witnessed devastating climate events, from raging fires in the American West and hurricanes in the American South, to record flooding and typhoons in China. As the largest economies in the world, the two countries also play an outsized role in shaping sustainable environmental and economic policies. Despite commitments from Beijing and Washington to cooperate in the fight against climate change, including major pledges to reduce carbon emissions and support the development of green, renewable energy, how can collaborative efforts actually come to fruition? Will the growing strain and competitive narrative in U.S.-China relations stymie broader joint engagement on climate change? This panel discussion brought together experts to examine lessons learned and best practices to identify tangible opportunities for bilateral cooperation on climate change.

This event was co-sponsored by the Walsh School of Foreign Service Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) program, the Asian Studies Program, and the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues.


Li Shuo is a senior global policy advisor at Greenpeace China. He leads the organization's engagement with multilateral environmental agreements, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Li also supports Greenpeace's advocacy for better ocean governance under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), various regional fishery management organizations, and the Antarctic Treaty. Domestically, he directs the organization's policy campaign on a wide range of issues, including air pollution, water, renewable energy, and fisheries. Li is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), American University, and Nanjing University. He is a German Chancellor and Alexander von Humboldt Fellow.

Nan Zhou is a senior scientist, department head of the International Energy Analysis Department, and the group leader of the China Energy Group at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Zhou is also the director of the presidential program U.S.-China Clean Energy Center-Building Energy Efficiency (CERC-BEE). She is an advisory board member of Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre under Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and a council member for the Energy Transition Council of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council. Zhou’s expertise includes energy and emission modeling, energy efficiency for end use sectors in buildings and industry, and low carbon city development.

Erica Thomas is the senior director of policy for Environment, Sustainability, and Regulatory Affairs at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). At ITI, Thomas runs the Green Grid, an affiliate member organization dedicated to optimizing the resource efficiency of data centers. She also oversees several environmentally related policy committees. Thomas joined ITI after a distinguished career as a U.S. diplomat, where she focused primarily on environment, science, and technology issues. While serving in Beijing, she led an air monitoring program that was pivotal in drawing worldwide attention to China’s air pollution problem, which China is now working diligently to address. She also ran numerous ministerial-level engagements, including the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue under the Obama administration, the U.S.-China Innovation Dialogue, the U.S.-China Joint Committee on Science and Technology, and the U.S.-China climate negotiations leading up to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Joanna Lewis (moderator) is Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of Energy and Environment and director of the Science, Technology and International Affairs Program (STIA) at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She has two decades of experience working on international climate and clean energy policy with a focus on China. At Georgetown she runs an active, externally funded research program and leads several dialogues and joint study groups facilitating U.S.-China climate change engagement. Lewis is also a faculty affiliate in the China Energy Group at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.