U.S. and China representatives strive to restore environment prudence

July 18, 2023: U.S. climate representative John Kerry commented that it was “imperative that China and the United States make real progress” four months before the COP28 international climate conferences 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 improve U.S.-China relations.

“In the next three days, we hope we can begin taking some big steps that resolve send a signal to the world about the serious purpose of China and the United States to address a common risk, threat, and 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 reducing methane and other non-CO2 emissions and 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 stood doing in building up renewable energy capacity but said the construction of new coal power plants had undercut it.

China has pledged to reduce 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 of top-level climate diplomacy between the two countries. The former Secretary of State is the third U.S. official to visit Beijing recently 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, 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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