US climate envoy John Kerry holds productive talks in Beijing to address climate crisis


US climate envoy John Kerry engaged in four hours of talks with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Monday. The resumption of climate negotiations between the two largest greenhouse gas emitters marks a promising step forward after a year-long hiatus.

The previous breakdown in climate talks occurred when Nancy Pelosi, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. However, Kerry’s longstanding cordial relationship with China has helped facilitate these renewed discussions, despite ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing concerning Taiwan and other contentious issues.

According to Chinese state media, Kerry met with Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change affairs, in Beijing. While no further details were disclosed, Beijing emphasized that climate change is a global challenge that necessitates cooperation among all nations. Mao Ning, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, stated that China is committed to exchanging views with the United States on climate change-related matters, with the shared goal of addressing challenges and enhancing the well-being of present and future generations.

Prior to the talks, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan emphasized that Kerry would urge China not to use its status as a developing nation as an excuse for delaying emission reduction efforts. Sullivan asserted that every country, including China, bears the responsibility to reduce emissions, urging the international community to exert pressure on China to take more decisive action.

China has long justified its high emissions on the grounds of being a developing nation. However, Sullivan stressed that China must do more in this regard, a point that Kerry plans to convey during his visit to Beijing.

John Kerry’s trip follows the recent visits of other high-ranking US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, which aimed to stabilize US-China relations. Kerry’s visit coincided with record-breaking summer heatwaves in the Northern Hemisphere, which scientists link to climate change.

Chunping Xie, Senior Policy Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, highlighted the significance of coordinated efforts in addressing the climate crisis. Xie stated that Kerry’s visit underscores the shared determination of both countries to navigate their complex geopolitical relationship for the greater good.

As the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, China has committed to peaking its carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving complete carbon neutrality by 2060. President Xi Jinping also pledged to reduce China’s coal usage starting in 2026. However, concerns have been raised as China approved a significant increase in coal power in April, leading to doubts about its ability to meet its emission reduction targets.

Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, expressed hope that progress could be made on the methane action plan, an area of agreement between the two countries in a joint declaration following the 2021 global climate talks in Glasgow. Myllyvirta emphasized that despite China’s rapid clean energy growth, stronger commitments are required to meet global climate goals.

While Kerry’s visit signifies an important step forward, experts acknowledge that sustained efforts and comprehensive action from both nations are necessary to address the climate crisis effectively.

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