Could America and China’s climate ambassadors John Kerry and Xi Zhenhua pull their stunt one more time? Again, these two men – the first now 79 years old, the second 73 – should try to give an impetus to the difficult international talks on additional climate policy.
Nine years ago it worked brilliantly. After months of negotiations, a bilateral agreement was reached in late 2014. The world’s two biggest climate polluters, China and the United States, pledged to make joint efforts to halt global warming, laying the groundwork for the global climate accord signed in Paris a year later.
Since then, climate talks with China have stalled under President Donald Trump. John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua both retired. But when Joe Biden took office in early 2021 with a renewed commitment to America’s assertive climate policy, ties with China were once again strengthened. Biden asked Kerry to be his climate ambassador. A few weeks later The Chinese government brought back Xie Zhenhua As a climate negotiator. This was widely seen as a signal that the two countries were seriously engaged in negotiations.
In the years that followed, Kerry and Xi met again and again, precisely at times when relations between the two countries were at their worst. They have repeatedly surprised the international community. In November 2021, at a climate summit in Glasgow, Kerry and Xi suddenly made a joint commitment that the US and China would increase their climate ambitions. Behind the scenes, it was revealed that they had been developing the report for months.
‘Existence and intensity’
“We both see that the challenge of climate change is existential and serious.” Xie told a press conference in Glasgow. “As the world’s two biggest powers, we must take responsibility and act in common sense with each other and with others to tackle climate change.”
More than half a year later, the collaboration was still in danger of failing. In August last year, China ended its official climate dialogue with the US, angered by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. That didn’t stop Kerry and Xi from speaking privately again two months later at the climate summit in Sharm-el-Sheikh.
Nothing special, Kerry said as nonchalantly as she could. “We’ve had some informal talks, but no formal negotiations yet.” Kerry, who has always tried to isolate the climate issue from other pressing issues in relations with China, also said he was ready to get back on track soon.
No country is doing enough
The time will come in a few days. Kerry is in Beijing for no less than four days, and the stakes are higher this time. In November, a climate summit in the United Arab Emirates will reassess the climate commitments made by all countries since the Paris Agreement – the so-called Reserve. Whether all those pledges are enough to keep global warming below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius remains to be seen.
The answer is already clear: no country is doing enough. While it was agreed in Paris that each country can determine its own contribution to reducing greenhouse gases, countries have committed themselves to a common end goal and are bound to raise their ambitions if that goal threatens to disappear from view.
According to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an organization of climate scientists that measures countries’ commitments, there is a large gap between what countries have promised and what they actually do, but also between what countries are willing to do so far and what needs to be done. have to do. The same goes for China and the US.
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“With current policies, China’s emissions remain sky high” CAT writes. “And there are no signs that emissions will be significantly reduced before peaking in 2030.” Also, demand for energy and electricity in China is growing faster than renewable energy. China is therefore dependent on fossil fuels, particularly coal. CAT rates China’s policy as ‘rather unsatisfactory’. If all countries followed this policy, the Earth would have warmed by about 4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
America is doing it As per CAT Somewhat better, thanks to the deflationary law – “a strong signal that the world’s largest historic emitter is beginning to act on its responsibilities”. The legislation makes $375 billion (€345 billion) available to green the industry. But according to CAT, that is still not enough. Also, the legislation passed Congress only after concessions to the fossil fuel industry. Congress also refuses to accept President Biden’s promised money for climate policy in poor countries. Overall, US climate policy is leading to 3 degrees Celsius of warming.
The United States and China will fulfill their international obligations only if they have sufficient trust in each other — and in the rest of the world. Therefore Advisory KPMG warned Last year’s climate talks threatened to be derailed by geopolitical tensions. “If mutually acceptable solutions to climate change are already difficult to achieve with some degree of international consensus in a globalized world, it will become even more difficult in an era of mistrust and polarization between nations.”
It’s not Kerry and Chee’s fault. Kerry has hinted that he won’t serve out Joe Biden’s presidency. Xie suffered a mild stroke in January. Kerry said in an interview, and was out for “a month and a half or something.” It is questionable whether Xie will be able to attend a climate summit in the Emirates later this year. But in the coming days, these two old men will do what they can to better protect future generations from a rapidly warming planet.
A version of this article appeared in the newspaper on July 17, 2023.
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