U.S. and China envoys seek to revive climate diplomacy

US climate envoy John Kerry gestures as he speaks next to China’s special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua during a session at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on May 24, 2022.

Fabrice Coffrini | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said it was “imperative that China and the United States make real progress” in the four months before the COP28 global climate talks in Dubai, as he met his counterpart Xie Zhenhua in the Chinese capital on Monday.

He also urged China to partner with the United States to cut methane emissions and reduce the climate impact of coal-fired power, with the two sides aiming to rebuild trust following a suspension in talks last year.

As delegates representing the world’s top two greenhouse gas emitters gathered in a conference room overlooking Beijing’s Forbidden City on Monday morning, Xie said the two climate envoys could play a role in improving U.S.-China relations.

John Kerry discusses resumed diplomacy with China and the outlook for climate reparations

“In the next three days we hope we can begin taking some big steps that will send a signal to the world about the serious purpose of China and the United States to address a common risk, threat, challenge to all of humanity created by humans themselves,” Kerry said.

This week’s meetings, which will continue until Wednesday, will have no formal schedule but are expected to focus on the abatement of methane and other non-CO2 emissions, as well as the run-up to COP28.

China’s reliance on coal is also likely to be on the agenda. Kerry praised the “incredible job” China has been doing in building up renewable energy capacity but said it had been undercut by the construction of new coal power plants.

China has pledged to start reducing coal consumption, but not until 2026, and new coal power project approvals have accelerated since last year.

Kerry’s third visit to China as U.S. climate envoy marks the formal resumption in top-level climate diplomacy between the two countries. The former Secretary of State is the third U.S. official to visit Beijing in recent weeks as China and the U.S. aim to stabilize their broader bilateral relationship.

Kerry and Xie met on Sunday night for a one-on-one dinner. Kerry complimented Xie for being back at work after overcoming illness. Both referred to each other as friends.

“Yesterday after we met each other, I did a little calculation,” Xie said on Monday. “I counted that since the two of us have been appointed special envoys, we have met 53 times.”

Talks were suspended last year following the visit of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, a democratically governed island that China claims.


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