China‘s commitment to tackling climate change on its own terms was reaffirmed by President Xi Jinping during a national conference on environmental protection. The meeting gained prominence as US climate envoy John Kerry visited Beijing, urging China to accelerate its climate action. As the world’s two largest polluters, China and the US resumed climate talks despite escalating geopolitical tensions. Kerry emphasized the need for China to reduce carbon reduction such as methane emissions, transition to clean energy, and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
China’s Unwavering Commitment to Carbon Goals
President Xi asserted that China’s determination to achieve its carbon reduction goals remains unwavering. These goals include reaching a carbon peak by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. He emphasized that China will determine the path, pace, method, and intensity of its carbon reduction efforts independently, without being influenced by external pressures, particularly from the United States.
Kerry’s Climate Mission in Beijing
In discussions with Li, Kerry stressed the importance of decarbonizing the power sector, cutting methane emissions, and reducing deforestation. He urged China to increase its climate ambition to mitigate the severe consequences of the climate crisis.
China’s Clean Energy Progress
China has made significant strides in clean energy investments, with solar capacity surpassing the rest of the world combined. The country also leads in wind capacity and electric vehicles. However, there are concerns that China’s recent approval of new coal plants, driven by the focus on energy security, might hinder the transition away from coal.
China’s Resolute Stance
President Xi’s remarks indicate that China is unwilling to succumb to pressure, particularly from the US, regarding its climate policies. John Kerry clarified that during his meetings with Chinese officials, there were no expressed concerns similar to Xi’s statement. Both sides aim to collaborate based on scientific evidence, devoid of political or ideological factors.
Challenges in Phasing Out Coal
A critical goal for the US is to persuade China to phase down its coal usage, as coal has been instrumental in powering China’s economy and stabilizing its electric grid during extreme heat events. Kerry acknowledged the need to find a balance between accelerating the transition away from coal without compromising the economy and people’s immediate needs.
Prospects for Concrete Commitments
Although John Kerry’s meetings did not yield specific commitments from China regarding coal phase-out or methane reduction, further discussions and engagement are planned in preparation for the upcoming UN climate summit in December. Both countries recognize that breaking new ground on climate cooperation will be challenging.
China and the US as Crucial Climate Players
As the two largest greenhouse gas emitters globally, China and the US play pivotal roles in addressing the climate crisis. China’s current emissions surpass those of the US, but historically, the US has been the leading emitter. China and other developing nations argue that industrialized countries, especially in the West, should take responsibility for their historical emissions.
The US-China Climate Cooperation Amid Tensions
US-China relations have been strained over various issues, including geopolitics, trade, and technology. While the US proposes climate cooperation as a separate matter, China views it as interwoven with broader diplomatic relations. Last year, China suspended climate talks with the US due to concerns about US officials’ actions related to Taiwan. John Kerry emphasized that climate cooperation should not be hindered by bilateral differences between the US and China. While acknowledging the complexities in their relations, he stressed the importance of addressing climate change as a stand-alone challenge. Climate action requires collective efforts from the world’s major economies, transcending diplomatic disputes.
China, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, reiterates its commitment to address climate change on its own terms, setting its pace and methods. The visit of US climate envoy John Kerry to Beijing signals renewed efforts to tackle the global climate crisis. While challenges remain, both nations acknowledge their significant roles in mitigating climate change and are dedicated to finding common ground and working together towards a sustainable future.