US-China Tensions Still Too Hot For Climate Agreement, As US Climate Envoy John Kerry Returns Home Without A Deal

Zinger Key Points
  • A Chinese trip by John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy for climate, ended Wednesday without achieving a climate deal ahead of the COP28 event.
  • Both countries account for over 38% of all greenhouse gas emissions, individually surpassing any other nation.

As this summer's scorching heat wave continues to break temperature records across the Northern Hemisphere, climate negotiations between the U.S. and China have failed to achieve a mutual agreement.

According to a Wednesday report in The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, President Xi Jinping rejected a U.S. proposal to work in tandem towards joint objectives in the fight against global warming.

"​​The ‘dual carbon' goal we have committed to is unshakable, but the path, method, rhythm and intensity to achieve this goal should and must be determined by ourselves. Never be influenced by others," said the leader in a speech at the National Ecological Environment Protection Conference held in Beijing this week.

The "dual carbon" goal refers to China's plan to reach its peak emissions before 2030 and become "carbon neutral" before 2060. 

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The White House’s Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry made a four-day visit to China, which included several sessions of intense negotiating with top Chinese officials in an effort to lay down a joint plan of cooperation with the goal of reducing carbon emissions. Kerry spent several days with Xie Zhenhua, special representative for climate change affairs of China.

Kerry told reporters on Wednesday that more work is needed to strike a deal, which would ideally be reached before the COP28, scheduled for November and December of this year.

Meanwhile, an unprecedented heat wave is battering North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. On Tuesday, Phoenix, Arizona broke a 48-year-old record for the longest amount of days above 110 degrees. China also broke a record of its own during the weekend, as its Xinjiang region reached an unprecedented 126 degrees. Temperature records across the world are being broken on a daily basis, including Rome, Italy, which experienced its highest recorded temperature on Tuesday.

Running parallel to the existential threat of climate change are the escalating measures being taken by both the U.S. and China, which include several sanctions meant to hamper each other's control over the semiconductor industry. Tensions over the sovereignty of Taiwan, a key strategic ally for the U.S. which China claims as part of its own territory, have also led to increasingly aggressive rhetoric from both sides.

Both countries are collaborating in attempts to cool down the tensions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited the country in June and July, respectively. Their aim was to repair relations and establish a more balanced stance for the world’s top two economies.

Both countries also generate a combined 38% of all greenhouse gas emissions, representing the most polluting nations in the world.

Kerry's visit has shown that economic and military tensions between the U.S. and China are getting in the way of binational agreements of environmental nature. According to the New York Times, Kerry urged Chinese officials to keep climate negotiations separate from other challenges in the relationship. 

"Climate should be free standing, because it is a universal threat to everybody on the planet," Kerry said to China's vice president, Han Zheng, on Wednesday.

However, top Foreign Affairs Official Wang Yi told Kerry on Tuesday that China's climate cooperation with the U.S. "cannot be separated from the broader environment of Chinese-U.S. relations," in a statement later doubled down by Xi Jinping himself.

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Posted In: AsiaESGNewsPoliticsMarketsGeneralChinaJohn KerryXi Jinping
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