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U.S. and China Talk Climate Change Again

Cconsensus is rare exist United Nations Climate negotiations, but most parties agree on one point. China and the United States, the two largest carbon emitters, must talk. So it was a relief when, halfway through this year’s meeting in the Egyptian resort, the two countries agreed to resume a climate change dialogue that had been frozen since August. Three days later, US climate envoy John Kerry invited Chinese envoy Xie Zhenhua to a meeting with the EU on methane, welcoming him to the stage as “my friend”. More than 70 ministers present burst into warm applause.

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President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to restart the climate dialogue at a meeting in Bali on Nov. 14, but it came too late, and their teams failed to deliver a joint statement at the talks in Egypt, the so-called police27. They also do not have time to jointly design more ambitious outcomes.this United Nations The meeting ended on Nov. 20 with an agreement to create a climate compensation fund for poorer countries, but no major new commitments to curb global emissions.

Still, many participants hoped that new cooperation between the U.S. and China could breathe life into the climate talks. There is no doubt that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Xie are personally committed to the cause (they seem to be really close, even talking informally before the Xi-Biden meeting). The question is whether they can now pick up where they left off in August and overcome new obstacles, including Taiwan friction and new U.S. restrictions on technology trade.

Not long ago, when Obama was president of the United States, climate change was a rare bright spot in Sino-US relations. Despite friction elsewhere, they have worked closely together on climate, signing several bilateral agreements that paved the way for the 2015 Paris agreement (in which most countries pledged to limit the rise in average global temperatures at levels well below 2°C). Cooperation then stalled under climate skeptic President Donald Trump, who has launched a trade war with China.

President Biden has tried to revive climate cooperation, but further deterioration in bilateral relations has stalled progress. At last year’s climate conference in Glasgow, China and the United States struck a surprise deal that, among other things, committed to setting up a working group of officials and experts to discuss cooperation in more detail. But ahead of the first meeting, China froze all high-level dialogue with the US in response to a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August.

It is unclear whether the two sides will now revive the working group, which includes several subgroups covering areas such as coal, methane and forestry, or use a different format. “We’re back at the negotiating table,” Mr Kerry said on 20 November. He promised they would build on commitments made in Glasgow, such as China’s pledge to reduce coal use, illegal deforestation and methane emissions. A State Department spokesman said the two sides discussed plans to “meet in the coming months.” The US account of the Xi-Biden meeting said they had agreed to “authorize key senior officials” to cooperate on climate change. The Chinese version only said they agreed to “work together” police27.

Mr. Xie said that formal consultations will continue in the future police27. But some observers believe China will agree to more detailed talks only if US Secretary of State Antony Blinken secures concessions in other areas during his expected visit to China in January. “Maybe it was part of the intention to keep some ambiguity,” said Shuo Li of Greenpeace East Asia. non-governmental organization.

Developments since August could complicate progress. With the Republicans on the verge of taking control of the House of Representatives and a presidential election in 2024, Biden is likely to face increased pressure at home to extract concessions from China, especially given that the U.S. will be required to pay for the new “losses and losses” of poor countries. The damage” fund foots the bill. Meanwhile, China wants Mr. Biden to ease restrictions in October on exports to China of semiconductor technology critical to making electric cars (among many other products). China could again suspend talks if the new Republican speaker visits Taiwan.

Methane is one area where progress is likely, says Jennifer Turner of the Wilson Center, a US think tank. Coal mines in China produce a lot. Reducing these emissions is less complicated than limiting the use of fossil fuels, since methane can be captured relatively cheaply and easily.This may explain Mr. Xie’s presence in police27 events, US and European Union More than 150 countries have signed a pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030, he said. China is not among them, but Mr Xie said his government had drawn up an action plan that would be approved soon.

There may be another reason for conditional optimism. As climate change becomes an even bigger area of ​​competition between the United States and China, both countries are pouring billions of dollars into developing green technologies at home and financing green development abroad, especially in poorer countries. “This playing field helps countries that can articulate their needs,” said Bernice Lee of Chatham House, a think tank in London.

China is refocusing its global “Belt and Road” infrastructure plan on greener projects. June, US and other members G7 A competitive initiative, the Global Partnership for Infrastructure and Investment, was launched. It aims to mobilize $600 billion to invest in eco-friendly infrastructure in poorer countries by 2027. One of the projects, unveiled on Nov. 15, is a $20 billion package to help wean Indonesia off coal.

Cooperation between the US and China will help reduce the cost of green technologies by integrating supply chains and allow for more efficient financing of climate-related projects in developing countries. For now, though, climate competition—rather than cooperation—may offer a more realistic path to progress.

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