In Beijing on Monday, US climate envoy John Kerry held a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, with the aim of seeking common ground between the two countries in addressing the challenges posed by the climate crisis.
The discussions, set to continue until Wednesday, do not have a formal agenda but are expected to focus on addressing non-CO2 emissions, particularly methane, and preparing for the COP28 summit.
Kerry’s agenda includes plans to revive stalled high-level climate diplomacy and exert pressure on China to increase efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly as record-breaking heatwaves, intensified by climate change, affect various regions of the northern hemisphere.
This meeting marks the first comprehensive face-to-face climate dialogue between representatives of the world’s two largest climate polluters after nearly a yearlong hiatus.
“What we’re trying to do is find ways we can cooperate to actually address the crisis” of climate, Kerry had said before his visit, calling China critical to “being able to solve this problem.”
In the meeting, Kerry emphasized the importance of making tangible progress in the four months leading up to the COP28 global climate talks in Dubai.
China has committed to reaching peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. President Xi Jinping has also said that the country will reduce its use of coal from 2026.
The United States and the European Union have urged the Asian powerhouse to adopt more ambitious emission reduction targets.
China, both the largest producer and consumer of coal, has continued constructing new coal plants while simultaneously investing in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
Kerry emphasized that the substantial gap between China’s claims and its status as the world’s second-largest economy should not hinder global efforts to reduce emissions.
The US is seeking to reestablish communication channels with China amid disagreements over other issues, such as trade, Taiwan, human rights and territorial claims. At home, however, some Republicans have raised concerns about the appropriateness of engaging in climate negotiations with China.
On Sunday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN that China bears the responsibility to reduce emissions along with every other country and should not “hide behind any kind of claim that they are a developing nation” in order to slow-roll efforts to cut emissions.
Kerry’s visit follows recent trips to China by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, as the Biden administration aims to establish stability in the broader bilateral relationship with China.
Relations between the two giant economies had run into rough waters after Nancy Pelosi, who was then the House Speaker, made a trip to Taiwan in August and after the US shot down what it said was a Chinese spy balloon.
The Biden administration seeks cooperation with China to address the climate crisis while maintaining a firm stance on other contentious issues.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency called recent US-China official interactions a “good sign for preventing further miscalculations, and steering bilateral relations back on track” in a commentary published on Sunday.