The United States and China are running out of time to avert a dire future caused by global warming, John Kerry, President Biden’s climate change envoy, warned Monday at the resumption of talks with Beijing that have stalled for nearly a year amid geopolitical tensions. tensions
Mr Kerry challenged the Chinese government to curb the rapid expansion of its fleet of coal-fired power stations and said the rest of the world was looking to the two economic powerhouses and major polluters to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.
“The world and the climate crisis require us to move quickly and significantly,” Mr Kerry told China’s top climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, and other officials as the countries began three days of formal talks in Beijing. “It is vital that we come together to act,” he said.
The meetings are the first substantive discussions on climate change the two countries have held since August, when the Chinese government suspended engagement with the United States because Nancy Pelosi, then the speaker of the House, traveled to Taiwan. Mr Kerry’s trip to China follows visits by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen aimed at stabilizing the relationship, which has been in freefall over the status of Taiwan and growing technological, geopolitical and military rivalry in the Pacific.
On Monday, both sides sought to strike a warm note, with Mr Kerry, 79, and Mr Xie, 73, who have negotiated with each other for more than 20 years, calling the other an “old friend”.
The climate talks come as China faces one of its hottest summers on record. In the past few weeks, Beijing has been gripped by scorching heat as temperatures have repeatedly soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat waves also swept over Europe and across the United States, baking the South and Southwest.
Mr Kerry said the science was unequivocal indicating that increased heat waves, floods and other extreme weather events were strongly driven by climate change. He reiterated Monday that the United States and China must be able to work together on climate change even as they wrangle other disputes.
“This is not a political issue,” Mr. Kerry told his counterpart. “This is not a two-sided issue or an ideological issue. This is real life unfolding before our eyes as a consequence of the choices we make or don’t make.”
Chinese leaders, however, have explicitly linked progress on climate change to the state of the broader relationship.
“If the United States continues its crackdown on China, increasing tensions and hostility between the two sides, it is likely to be in favor of some kind of cooperation, including on climate change,” the Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the ruling Communist Party. wrote in an editorial on Monday.
Mr Xie opened the meeting by saying he hoped the two nations were entering a period of “stable relations”. He said the US and China must “seek common ground while putting aside our differences” and called for negotiations to be “sinkable and deep”.
While the two men have both called for cooperation, the reality is that there are significant tensions between the US and China when it comes to cutting emissions. Together, the nations produce about 40 percent of the world’s climate pollution.
The US has tried to push China to adopt more ambitious goals. Mr. Kerry said his goal is to come out of this week’s talks with a substantive agreement on issues such as China’s coal use and plans to curb methane, a potent greenhouse gas that seeps from oil and gas wells.
China, on the other hand, has tried to stick to how it plans to meet its current goals, senior State Department officials said Monday.
Republicans and some Democrats have strongly objected to the characterization of China as a developing nation and argue that China must take climate steps more on par with those of the United States. Days before Mr. Kerry left for Beijing, GOP lawmakers questioned whether he should negotiate with a nation they view as unreliable on cutting emissions.
On Monday, Mr Kerry sought to push China on its coal use, even as he struck a conciliatory note.
“China has done an incredible job of building renewable energy,” Mr Kerry said. “But on the other hand, we’re seeing new coal come online, which undoes the benefit of that.”
China has pledged to maximize its emissions by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2060, but experts said China’s coal expansion threatens its 2060 target. In the past two years, China has built more coal-fired power plants and expanded coal mines. In 2022, China has allowed the equivalent of two coal-fired power plants to be built per week, according to global energy research groups.
President Biden has pledged that the United States will reduce emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by the end of this decade, a goal that energy analysts say the United States is within striking distance of achieving.