Chinese leaders rejected attempts by John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, to persuade them to take tougher climate action during three days of talks in Beijing, a response that suggested tensions between the countries are making it difficult to work together on a crisis that. threatens the planet.

Mr Kerry emerged late on Wednesday from the lengthy negotiations in Beijing without new agreements. In fact, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, insisted in a speech that China will pursue its goals to eliminate carbon dioxide pollution at its own pace and in its own way.

Still, Mr. Kerry appeared pleased that the world’s two biggest polluters had resumed talks that had been frozen for a year because of strained relations over Taiwan, trade and other issues. He insisted he was not disappointed with the outcome, noting that just talking marked progress.

“We had very frank conversations, but we came here to break new ground,” Mr. Kerry said, adding, “It’s clear we’re going to need a little more work.”

It is not hyperbole to say that the extent of global warming depends on decisions made by China and the United States. China now accounts for nearly a third of global emissions, more than all other developed nations combined. To avoid the worst consequences of a warming world, it is critical that the United States, the world’s largest emitter throughout history, work with China to reduce carbon pollution, experts say.

The talks in Beijing came as the world experienced its hottest two weeks on record and Mr Kerry urged Chinese leaders to consider the scorching heat in parts of China, Europe and the US as a sign of worse things to come if they fail to cut back. greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Kerry hoped to persuade China to begin reducing its carbon emissions on a faster timeline and quickly end its heavy use of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. While the United States generates 14 percent of global carbon emissions, China is responsible for 31 percent and its pollution is increasing every year. China has said it will hit peak emissions by 2030 and stop adding carbon to the atmosphere by 2060.

But scientists say industrialized countries must make deep and sharp cuts in carbon emissions now to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Mr Xi, who did not meet with Mr Kerry during the envoy’s visit this week, said China would follow its own timetable for reducing emissions. “The way and means to achieve this goal, and the tempo and intensity, should be and must be determined by ourselves, and never under the control of others,” he said in a speech on Wednesday according to the official People’s Journal.

Mr Kerry responded late on Wednesday to Mr Xi’s remark by saying the US was not “dictating” to China or any nation. “If anything dictates, it’s the science,” he said. “We should all be informed and compelled by the level of science.”

Later, Mr. Kerry rejected the idea that the United States could or even should force China to do more. “You don’t come in here and start pushing people,” he said. “You talk, you build a relationship, you give people reasons to do something based on their self-interest.”

Mr. Kerry noted that the United States and Europe are also still struggling to move away from fossil fuels. “This is a difficult issue,” he said. “We acknowledge that.”

He said there were a number of areas of agreement, including around the goal of preventing global average temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say increasingly severe wildfires, floods, heat and drought will exceed humanity’s ability to adapt. The planet has already warmed 1.2 degrees.

Mr Kerry said the discussions with Chinese leaders over the country’s coal expansion were among the most difficult. China has built a number of new coal-fired power plants in the last two years, locking the country into its continued use. Mr. Kerry tried unsuccessfully to urge China to curb its use of coal and implement a plan to cut methane, a potent greenhouse gas that seeps from oil and gas wells and coal mines.

At the same time, China is building more solar, wind and other renewable energy than all other countries combined.

Joanna Lewis, a professor at Georgetown University who specializes in China’s energy policy, called it “constructive” that the US and China appeared to be focused on how to expand the use of renewable energy and address concerns about energy security and power shortages rather than simply. pushing Beijing to accelerate its phase out of coal.

“China is conducting a national experiment to deploy renewable energy at a scale, at levels that no other country has ever been able to achieve,” Ms Lewis said.

Mr Kerry is the latest of several Biden administration officials to travel to Beijing to ease relations after months of resentment between China and the US sent ties to their lowest point in decades.

But unlike visits by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Mr Kerry’s trip was more about detailed negotiations than setting new tones and a floor for the bilateral relationship. With the exception of three meetings with Chinese leaders in the Great Hall of the People, Mr. Kerry and his team spent most of their visit in a Beijing Hotel conference room hashing out differences with China’s climate negotiators.

During the talks, Mr. Kerry urged Chinese officials to isolate climate change from the broader challenges in the relationship, arguing that the urgency of the climate crisis requires the two countries to do more.

“Climate should be free because it is a universal threat to everyone on the planet,” Mr. Kerry told Han Zheng, China’s vice president, on Wednesday.

But Wang Yi, a top foreign affairs official who advises Mr. Xi, told Mr. Kerry on Tuesday that China’s cooperation with the United States on climate “cannot be separated from the broader environment of Sino-US relations,” according to the official Chinese summary of their speeches. Thom Woodroofe, a senior member of the Asia Society, called Mr. Kerry’s visit to China “a small victory for the stabilization of relations between the United States and China.”

Beijing and Washington have slid from dispute to dispute since President Trump’s years in office, and the antagonism has only deepened somewhat during Mr. Biden’s tenure.

The two powers have been increasingly at odds over Taiwan, the island democracy that China claims as its territory. Those tensions rose last August when then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan. In response, China has held threatening military exercises near the island and suspended climate talks. The Biden administration has also sought to limit China’s access to advanced semiconductors and other technological know-how owned by Western companies that could help the Chinese military, a move Beijing has denounced as a campaign to slow its economic growth.

Mr. Wang said the United States should pursue a “rational, pragmatic and positive” policy toward China, and emphasized Beijing’s demands that Washington “properly handle” issues surrounding Taiwan.

China has its own reasons for more urgently reducing its greenhouse gas pollution, which is by far the highest of any economy in the world. A summer of record heat waves and floods has shown how exposed China is to a global pattern of increasingly extreme weather.

Yet while China is on track to double its green energy capacity by 2025, the Chinese government has resisted calls to strengthen its climate targets or stop permitting new coal-fired power plants.

There is also lingering suspicion in China that the US could turn its back on its climate pledges under a future administration, as it has done under President Trump, who pulled the US out of an international climate agreement and promoted coal growth.

“The Chinese also want to see results from the United States to believe that it will deliver,” said Deborah Seligsohn, an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University who is based in China.

Beijing’s invitation to Mr. Kerry to talk about climate issues is also part of a broader effort to reduce tensions with the United States to boost confidence at a difficult time for the Chinese economy, experts said.

“It is very difficult for China to manage that confidence deficit if the most important relationship for China – the US-China relationship – is in free fall,” said. Evan S. Medeirosformer director for China in the National Security Council who now teaches at Georgetown University.

Mr. Xi is also eyeing a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in San Francisco in November, when he may also hold a summit with President Biden. China’s leaders “want a decent relationship so that Xi Jinping can come to the United States and not be embarrassed,” Mr. Medeiros said.

“It is important not to exaggerate the current moment in US-China relations,” he said. “It’s not relaxation. It is far from it.”

Mr Kerry said it was better to leave China without a firm deal than with one that did not include meaningful targets. He said he and Mr. Xie are already discussing planning further talks between the US and Chinese negotiating teams.

“These conversations are going to be pretty intense,” he said. “But if we don’t break new ground, it will be even more difficult to tame the monster created by the climate crisis.”

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