WASHINGTON – John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, said Thursday that he will travel to China next week to resume talks on global warming between the world’s two biggest polluters.
Mr Kerry’s trip will mark the first climate talks between the US and China since August, when Beijing broke off talks in anger after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. The talks come as the highest global temperatures ever recorded, driven by the burning of fossil fuels as well as the El Niño climate pattern, are baking both nations and much of the planet.
“We need genuine cooperation,” Mr. Kerry said in an interview. “China and the United States are the two largest economies in the world and we are also the two largest emitters. It is clear that we have a special responsibility to find common ground.”
The trip to China would be Mr. Kerry’s third as climate envoy. It follows visits by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen aimed at stabilizing the uneasy relationship between Washington and Beijing. Mr Kerry said he planned to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, and other officials “at the highest levels” during the week of July 16.
China and the United States are also the two largest investors in clean energy. Their policies have a huge impact on whether the world will avoid the worst consequences of global warming.
Yet there are deep divisions over the speed with which each country should stop the fossil fuel emissions that are dangerously warming the planet.
Republicans who criticized Mr. Blinken and Ms. Yellen’s trip to China denounced Mr. Kerry’s trip and accused him of undermining the United States.
“Despite not being confirmed by the US Senate, John Kerry is still negotiating with the Chinese Communist Party to push a radical Green New Deal Agenda harmful to American interests,” Representative James Comer, Republican of Kentucky, said in a statement. He accused Mr Kerry of doing “closed doors” with the Chinese.
next thursday, Mr. Kerry is scheduled to appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs oversight panel.
The United States under President Biden has pledged to cut emissions by about half by 2030. The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress last year invests at least $370 billion in wind, solar and other clean energy. Combined with tougher pollution limits on outlets and smokestacks proposed by Mr. Biden, the law could put America within striking distance of its goal.
China’s emissions continue to grow but Xi Jinping, China’s president, has said it will peak its carbon pollution by 2030 and then stop adding it to the atmosphere altogether by 2060. China burns more coal than the rest of the world combined. Last year it approved more new coal power plants last year than at any time in the last seven years.
But scientists warn that industrialized nations must make a sharp divestment from fossil fuels now, to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.
Mr Kerry said he intended to urge China to speed up its phase-out of coal, fight deforestation and issue a plan to reduce emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that seeps from oil and gas wells. Those are issues that China has said it will address joint agreement in 2021 with the United States this has not yet been implemented.
“We’re really looking for some specific actions that will move the ball here,” Mr. Kerry said. “If we can’t get China to work with us very aggressively to address this challenge, we all have a bigger problem.”
Thom Woodroofe, a senior fellow at the Asia Social Policy Institute, said formally re-establishing routine climate talks would be the “crown jewel” of any outcome of Mr Kerry’s trip.
“Right now, we’re one geopolitical issue away from being done with climate talks,” Mr Woodroofe said, noting that it would take a year to “get back to where we were” after China suspended diplomatic talks on military issues, narcotics and climate change. . because of Mrs. Pelosi’s Taiwan trip.
Of those three, only China agreed to restore negotiations on climate change.
Mr Kerry, 79, and Mr Xie, 74, each came out of retirement to lead their country’s climate talks. The men collaborated on some of the defining international policy successes of the last decade, including the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which nearly every nation pledged to reduce emissions to limit average global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say the likelihood of catastrophic climate impacts increases significantly. The planet has already warmed by an average of 1.2 degrees Celsius.
Mr. Xie and Mr. Kerry met a number of times on the sidelines of a United Nations summit in Egypt last year, though aides said they were light-hearted discussions mostly centered around when more substantive talks could resume.
Mr. Xie also suffered a stroke this year, but is now “much better,” Mr. Kerry said, adding that the two men almost met.