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Throughout 2022, EPIC hosted a series of conversations on the status of international climate negotiations, the role of developing countries like India in these discussions, and the important relationship between the United States and China in advancing progress. The series was moderated by The New York Times climate policy reporter Lisa Friedman, EPIC’s journalism fellow, and featured senior climate diplomats who played key roles in securing past international climate agreements.

An Insider’s Look at COP26: Successes, Setbacks, and the Future of International Climate Diplomacy

February 1, 2022

Last November (2021), the international community concluded its 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. Reviews were mixed. Among its successes, COP26 concluded the Paris “rulebook,” adopted a consensus decision on next steps, and produced a series of multilateral commitments on limiting methane emissions and deforestation, strengthening climate finance, and more. A surprise joint declaration between the United States and China offered hope that the world’s two largest economies and carbon emitters can still work together.

At the same time, despite substantial progress since adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the world remains off track to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Key countries have not yet aligned their “nationally determined contributions” with the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal. How should the world view COP26? Is progress being made, or are countries avoiding the tough choices? How essential is the United States? And where do international climate negotiations go from here?

On February 1, EPIC hosted Sue Biniaz, Deputy to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, who played a critical role in both the forming of the Paris Agreement and in the latest talks. Biniaz talked with EPIC journalism fellow and The New York Times climate reporter Lisa Friedman, who was in Glasgow covering the conference. They discussed the successes, setbacks and steps forward.

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Can the World Phase Out Fossil Fuels? A Look at Climate Policy in the Developing World

May 10, 2022

Developing countries represent a large source of potential future carbon emissions as they seek to rapidly industrialize their economies. Yet, if the world is to hold future warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, these countries must identify a cleaner model of growth that relies on low- or zero-carbon fuels instead of fossil energy.

This tension between maintaining access to inexpensive energy and addressing climate change was on full display last fall when countries met at the COP26 international climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. India, already the world’s third-biggest emitter, committed that half of its energy come from clean sources by 2030. At the same time, the country pushed for a key change to the final agreement: weakening language from a “phase out” of coal to a “phase down.” India is part of a cohort of countries seeking aid from richer nations to help them make the transition away from fossil fuels.

How can developing countries balance their need for reliable energy with goals to transition away from fossil fuels? Are there signs of progress? And, what responsibility do developed nations bear for helping developing countries confront climate change?

On May 10, EPIC hosted a conversation on climate policy in the developing world with Indian Member of Parliament Priyanka Chaturvedi, former U.S. Deputy Climate Envoy Jonathan Pershing, program director of environment at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and EPIC Director Michael Greenstone. The event was moderated by EPIC’s journalism fellow, Lisa Friedman, climate policy reporter for The New York Times.

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Is There a Path Forward on Climate Diplomacy?

October 12, 2022

Major commitments from the US and China have set the stage for concrete investments in emissions reductions in recent months. But according to climate negotiators, in order to retain credibility on the multilateral stage and drive investment from less motivated nations, the two countries must both make real progress toward implementing their own climate resolutions and learn to put aside broader differences to continue working together on this issue.

On Wednesday, October 12, the University of Chicago and Peking University hosted the kickoff event for the UChicago-Peking University Joint Forum on Addressing the Climate and Energy Challenge. The opening event, co-organized with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), included a virtual fireside chat on climate democracy between Jonathan Pershing, former Deputy to the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and Ji ZOU, former Deputy Director General of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation. The discussion was moderated by Lisa Friedman of The New York Times, EPIC’s journalism fellow. The event also featured welcoming remarks from UChicago’s President Paul Alivisatos, Peking University’s President Gong Qihuang, and Consul General Zhao Jian.

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