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Top U.S. Official Says China Represents Opportunity and Challenges for Diplomacy U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, visits the School of Public Affairs

U.S Ambassador to China Max Sieben Baucus speaks at the Inaugural Scher Sustainability Forum.

Max Sieben Baucus, the United States Ambassador to China, recently addressed a packed crowd of students, faculty, and members of the community at American University for the inaugural Scher Sustainability Forum.

“Many of the threats facing the world today are a complex mix of environmental, social, and economic factors,” said Barbara Romzek, Dean of the School of Public Affairs. “China is perhaps one of the most complex examples of this intersection.”

Hosted by SPA’s Center for Environmental Policy, the event on March 15 featured the Ambassador, who was joined on stage in a lively discussion by the Center’s director, Daniel Fiorino, and Judith Shapiro, a faculty member of SIS’s Global Environmental Politics Program.

“China spends more than $130 billion a year on renewable energy,” said Baucus. “They are also the largest producer and user of coal.”

China spends more on renewable energy than the U.S, United Kingdom, and France combined. But at the same time, China is building 107 new coal fire power plants across the mainland.

The discussion covered China’s recent advancements in the South China Sea, its poor air quality; the U.S.-China Joint Announcements on Climate Change in 2014 and 2015; and China’s insatiable appetite for energy and other resources.

“It’s a very big place with a very big population,” said Baucus. “The country’s first concern is income for its many families. It’s a bigger priority, but they’re trying to find the right balance.”

The Scher Sustainability Forum was established by Peter Scher, a graduate of SPA, and his wife, Kim Tilley. Their passion for environmental responsibility in both the public and private sector inspired the founding of this series. The Forum explores the most pressing environmental and energy policy issues of our time.

The next event will be held on May 18 at the National Press Club focusing on public/private financing for climate change mitigation. Please visit SPA’s Center for Environmental Policy for more information.