The Biden administration called on China on Saturday to do more to help developing countries fight climate change, urging the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases to support international climate finance, which it has so far refused to support.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen delivered the message during her second day of meetings in Beijing, where she is trying to cultivate areas of cooperation between the United States and China. While China has expressed support for programs to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change, it has resisted paying such funds, arguing that it is also a developing nation.
Ms. Yellen said that China, like the United States, has a responsibility to be a leader in climate finance.
“Climate finance must be targeted effectively and efficiently,” Ms Yellen said during a meeting with a group of Chinese and international experts on sustainable finance on Saturday morning. “I believe that if China supported existing multilateral climate institutions such as the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Investment Funds together with us and other donor governments, we could have a greater impact than we do today.”
The United States and China are both facing pressure from developing countries to mobilize more money for such countries that are struggling to close coal plants, develop renewable energy, or deal with the consequences of climate change by building things like sea walls, improving drainage or developing early. flood and cyclone warning systems.
Under President Barack Obama, the United States pledged $3 billion over four years to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations-led program aimed at helping poor countries. So far it has delivered $2 billion of that promise. Republicans have tried repeatedly to block taxpayer spending for the fund and other climate funds, but President Biden has used discretionary spending within the State Department to fulfill part of the US pledge.
China pledged $3.1 billion, and it delivered about 10 percent of that, according to studies. It also gives money to developing nations through what its leaders call “South-South” cooperation. That’s because under the United Nations climate body, China is still considered a developing country and not an industrialized nation, even though China now has a much larger manufacturing sector than any other country. It has long resisted pressure to contribute to the same climate funds as rich nations, arguing that advanced economies like the United States have been polluting for much longer and have more of a responsibility to help tackle climate change.
“It is not China’s obligation to provide financial support” under UN climate rules, Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy, said in an interview last year after the creation of a new multilateral fund to help poor countries deal with economic losses from climate disasters. .
John Morton, a former Treasury Department climate adviser under the Biden administration, said any meaningful contribution from China could help the US make the case to members of Congress and others to approve climate finance. He also said there may be other ways the two superpowers could work together to help developing nations cut coal use or curb methane, a potent greenhouse gas that leaks from oil and gas wells.
“That would be hugely consequential for the world,” he said. “Anytime there’s an opportunity to forge a closer relationship with China on climate, it’s an opportunity that should be seized immediately.”
The United States and China are co-chairs of the Working Group on Sustainable Finance at the Group of 20, giving the two countries an opportunity to work more closely on global climate issues.
Ms. Yellen is the second cabinet member of the Biden administration to travel to China in recent weeks; Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was there in June. Later in July, John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, will visit to restart global warming talks between the world’s two biggest polluters.
In addition, President Biden will attend a forum in London on Tuesday aimed at finding ways to mobilize climate finance, especially “to remove private finance from the sidelines, to deploy and adapt clean energy in developing countries”, Jake Sullivan, the national security of the White House. counselor, said Friday.
During her four-day trip to China, Ms. Yellen sought to reopen the channels of communication with her counterparts in Beijing after years of growing mistrust that has been fueled by trade wars and export controls for sensitive technology. In meetings this week, Ms. Yellen criticized China’s treatment of foreign businesses but also asserted that more frequent conversations between top officials would help prevent policy misunderstandings.
The Treasury Secretary also discussed climate finance in a meeting with Premier Li Qiang on Friday in Beijing. On Saturday afternoon she is scheduled to meet with Vice Premier He Lifeng, her counterpart who oversees China’s economy.
In the past two years, China has built more coal-fired power plants and expanded coal mines, prompting concern in Washington.
Chinese officials have said they plan to completely eliminate carbon emissions by 2060, starting no later than 2030. And China has led the world in installing solar power and exporting solar panels to other countries.
China is doubling coal consumption in part for national security reasons — it doesn’t want to rely more on imported oil and natural gas that could be wiped out in a crisis.
China’s electricity experts say the new coal-fired power plants will be used mainly during peaks of electricity demand, not around the clock. But critics say that once built, the plants will inevitably harm the climate in the long term.