- Advertisement -Newspaper WordPress Theme
Climate ChangeJohn Kerry’s China Visit was a Success (Form of)

John Kerry’s China Visit was a Success (Form of)

John Kerry’s China Visit was a Success (Form of)

There was no big climate announcement. But that wasn’t really the aim of the U.S. climate envoy visiting Beijing.

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in 2013.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry just wrapped up three days of talks with top Chinese officials in Beijing and doesn’t have lots to point out for it: There was no joint agreement or grand bargain. Chinese officials didn’t signal willingness to commit to a speedier timetable for cutting their greenhouse gas emissions or slowing down their constructing boom of coal-fired power plants. Nor did they show willingness to separate the urgent issue of climate change from the broader tensions clouding the US-China relationship.

However the reopening of climate negotiations during this visit is a positive development with hidden advantages, based on Alex Wang, faculty co-director of the UCLA Emmett Institute.

Wang recently returned from his own visit to Beijing. I spoke to him about what this diplomatic moment means for the prospect of international motion on global warming within the months ahead.

What’s the essential context to Kerry’s trip, and did you see signs of progress?

The proven fact that the U.S. and China are talking about climate change again is totally essential. We’re all aware of the physical signs of climate change which might be hitting us: the acute heat, the wildfires. In order that’s the context through which the leaders of the 2 largest emitters were meeting. The U.S. and China hadn’t been talking for some months after the controversy around Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

The political discussion within the U.S. has been focused on whether Kerry can force China to vary its policies and specifically its relationship with coal. In the previous few years, China has instituted a policy that revived coal. The Chinese have a slogan “Construct it before you break it.” Xi Jinping himself said this and the message to the system was ‘don’t rush to go all renewables,’ which led to loads of local permitting and construction of coal-fired power plants. This has been justified on energy security grounds and justified on the necessity to offer back-up power for intermittent renewables. In Beijing there may be loads of discussion amongst environmental experts that these economic concerns and energy security concerns are making climate policy implementation tougher. In order that’s a challenge to this premise that Kerry could go to Beijing and in some way force China to vary that very fundamental economic and energy policy.

I feel Kerry is well aware of this and that his team also understands the danger of political backlash inside China that if the U.S. is pushing for certain things there is likely to be a backlash in China that goes something like ‘We shouldn’t do those things because there should be some reason the U.S. wants us to do this.’ So, it needs to be handled in a diplomatic and delicate way.

The conversation between the 2 countries has various purposes: one is to search out out where China is on all these problems with major concern. Where are they on methane? Where are they on the clean energy transition? Where are they on coal? What do they are saying in regards to the reasons they’re doing this stuff that the world is worried about? That basic understanding we’ve lost a little bit of due to COVID and since of geopolitical tensions.

Kerry didn’t meet with leader Xi Jinping and there wasn’t any big joint announcement, what do you make of that?

Chinese leaders have made it some extent to signal that they’re taking climate change actions on their very own initiative. Xi Jinping said at a domestic environmental conference this week that China’s commitment to its climate goals was “unwavering,” but “the trail, method, pace and intensity to realize this goal should and should be determined by ourselves, and won’t ever be influenced by others.” In some ways, the very last thing they’d wish to do is give Kerry a victory he could take home. If China plans to make a climate announcement prematurely of this 12 months’s COP28, I expect it could come at a spot just like the UN General Assembly meeting in September.

What does this all say in regards to the balance between competition and cooperation?

When Pres. Biden got here into office there was loads of talk in regards to the return of international cooperation being essential. I and various other people tried to reframe the controversy to say it’s not only about cooperation–competition also plays a vital role.

And the US has moved forward on climate change on the federal level with a big competitive component with China. The Inflation Reduction Act is essentially about bringing manufacturing back to the US, creating more diverse supply chains motivated by the priority that China has dominated the clean energy and electric vehicle supply chains. In some ways in which sense of competition was essential within the Inflation Reduction Act.

But cooperation is vital to be certain that that competition doesn’t go off the rails in a destructive manner. We’re in a world where each are at play. On the core of this issue shouldn’t be a matter of whether Kerry and Xi strike some type of agreement. The core of the problem is whether or not the US and China can actually decarbonize of their respective countries. Within the U.S. with the passage of the IRA and just a few other laws in the previous few years, we even have a much stronger path forward and it’s all about how well we implement that and what further we do to hit our targets. In China they’ve long-term targets: they’ve their 2060 carbon neutrality goal, their 2030 carbon peaking goal, and the query is how effectively they move forward with those targets, and the way all sides meets their goals.

You visited Beijing for two weeks in June. What struck you about how Chinese environmental policy has modified because you were there just a few years ago?

The change in the electrical vehicle rollout was stunning. What I saw in Beijing was an absolute transformation from the pre-COVID era from when there have been not loads of EVs on the road to now almost the whole local taxi fleet had been converted to electric vehicles, in addition to loads of the passenger cars and delivery trucks. That shift, driven by China’s industrial and regulatory policy, has been dramatic and it’s not something we’d pay attention to because we don’t really have Chinese passenger cars in the marketplace but these Chinese vehicles are being exported to much of the world. China has recently turn into the biggest exporter of cars on this planet, ahead of Japan, and lots of of those are electric.

Considered one of my other top-level takeaways was there’s an actual appetite for engagement from the Chinese side. There have been many international visitors over the summer and all of the environmental experts are wanting to reengage and work together on joint problems. I used to be also recently a part of a Track 2 dialogue in Los Angeles and it was the primary time we had key deep conversations with key research level people from China for a while and it was absolutely indispensable, simply to get a way of where they stand and to what extent the barriers on the Chinese side are technical, informational, are they political, economic.

China, COP28, John Kerry, Xi Jinping


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here




We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.




Get unlimited access to our EXCLUSIVE Content and our archive of subscriber stories.


- Advertisement -Newspaper WordPress Theme

Latest articles

More articles

- Advertisement -Newspaper WordPress Theme