On Sunday, US climate envoy John Kerry landed in Beijing to begin meetings with China on climate problems. The suffocating heat in the Chinese capital and elsewhere across the world may remind Kerry of how urgent it is to address global warming.
However, those warning signs are insufficient to deter Washington from impeding bilateral climate cooperation.
According to the Global Times. Chinese observers predicted that the negotiations in China would yield little, if any, tangible progress, and that the two would be unlikely to return to where they were in 2021.
Although observers believe it is difficult to let climate negotiations serve as the tail that wags the geopolitics between China and the US, they believe the recent flurry of high-level visits by US officials will lead to a controllable status of “no derail,” paving the way for possible meetings between higher-level officials.
Kerry told senators on Capitol Hill on Thursday that he intended to achieve progress with China on cutting methane emissions, transitioning away from coal, combating deforestation, and growing collaborative deployment of renewable energy technologies.
“What we’re trying to achieve now is really to establish some stability,” Kerry told a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee. “I’m not going over with any concessions.”
Kerry’s visit, as well as the two countries’ scheduled climate discussions, come at a critical juncture in which a warming world is wreaking havoc due to record temperatures, floods, storms, and wildfires.
The world’s attention is focused on whether climate talks between China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies and also the two largest emitters, will result in progress towards resolving more frequent climate disasters, according to Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, who spoke to the Global Times on Sunday.
Although China has yet to reveal which Chinese official will meet with Kerry, foreign media speculated that it will be Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change.
Xie and Kerry are both highly involved in pressing for climate change resolution and have frequent exchanges, so their meeting is expected to result in meaningful and open dialogue, according to Ma.
Observers were widely sceptical that Kerry’s visit would result in any significant results for climate change cooperation between the two countries, and they anticipated that the two countries’ climate discussions would not return to where they were in 2021.
Beijing and Washington disagree on the foundations of climate change mitigation. According to Lin Boqiang, director of the China Centre for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, the US has always pressed China to further reduce emissions while ignoring China’s need for growth, and has urged China to step up financing for global climate change issues.
Lin believes that such a patronising approach is not the way to engage China in climate cooperation with the US. He stated that the United States is unqualified to lecture China on climate issues because Washington’s inconsistent stance on climate change and refusal to assist poorer countries have badly diluted global efforts.
During the congressional hearing, Kerry emphasised that the US will not pay reparations to developing countries affected by climate-related calamities. Observers feel that if the US wants to demonstrate its commitment to collaboration, it should first lift its punitive measures against China’s green industry.
In recent years, Washington has also sought to restrict China’s solar panel business. In May of this year, the US Senate decided to impose taxes on solar panels from Chinese businesses in Southeast Asia that were discovered to be entering the US “in violation of trade rules.”
Furthermore, analysts believe that asking China to collaborate on climate issues is impractical if China and the US fail to develop an overall healthy relationship and if the US shows no sincerity in strengthening bilateral relationships.
According to Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, it is difficult to let climate serve as the tail that wags the geopolitics because climate is not a “romantic enclave” independent from bilateral relations.
Speaking at the 7th Ministerial on Climate Action, which took place in Brussels, Belgium, from Thursday to Friday, China’s minister of ecology and environment, Huang Runqiu, urged countries to eliminate geopolitical disruption and sabotage of global climate change cooperation, and to consider the impact of “decoupling, de-risking” efforts.
Kerry’s visit is the third in a month that a senior US official has travelled to China for discussions, following Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The flurry of visits sends a positive signal that China and the US are maintaining a high level of communication, which is likely to pave the way for a meeting of higher-level officials from the two countries, according to Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, who spoke to the Global Times on Sunday.
Despite differences on many topics, the two countries share a willingness to control their differences, according to Li, who added that the bilateral relationship may enter a controllable phase of “no derail.”
The discussions have focused on boosting collaboration in sectors that might serve as strategic guardrails for both nations, according to Li, saying that it is unclear whether China and the US can step up cooperation in those areas. According to the expert, the main source of concern is the United States’ toxic domestic politics and its lack of sincerity in repairing relations.