U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is currently engaged in discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in Beijing. Marking the first extensive face-to-face climate negotiations between the world’s two largest climate polluters after a nearly yearlong hiatus. The talks come at a time when the United States aims to restore contact with China amid various disputes concerning trade, Taiwan, human rights, and territorial claims.
China, as the largest global producer and consumer of coal, has continued to build new coal plants. While also making strides in renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.
Prior to his trip, Kerry faced questioning from Congressional Republicans. Some of whom challenged the existence of climate change—a scientifically established fact. However, both Republicans and Democrats generally accept the scientific consensus on climate change. Republican criticism during the hearings often focused on the appropriateness of the U.S. engaging in climate negotiations with China.
China has committed to levelling off carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2060. The United States and the European Union have urged China to adopt more ambitious emission reduction targets.
U.S. lawmakers have criticized China for not making larger cuts in fossil fuel emissions and for asserting its status as a developing economy. It claims to exempt it from the same climate standards as developed Western nations.
Kerry argued that the significant gap between China’s claims and the size of its economy, as the world’s second-largest, should not hinder global progress on emissions reduction. However, he ruled out the likelihood of persuading China to impose the same emissions-cutting requirements as other major economies, at least during this visit.
Kerry’s visit to China follows recent trips by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Indicating a renewed effort by the Biden administration to engage with Chinese counterparts. China had previously suspended certain mid- and high-level contacts. Including those related to climate issues, in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August, which China considers part of its territory.
Since then, additional challenges have strained U.S.-China relations, including the transit of what Americans claim was a Chinese spy balloon across the United States.
The ongoing discussions between John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua in Beijing, are expected to address key climate issues. As both countries play crucial roles in combating global climate change.