China’s vice president says it will work with US on climate change

July 20, 2023 in International

China is willing to work with Washington on reducing global warming and called for mutual respect, the country’s vice president told US climate envoy John Kerry on Wednesday.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Vice President Han Zheng as telling Kerry that addressing climate change was “an important aspect of China-US cooperation,” but was predicated on mutual respect. He said it must proceed “on the basis of US attendance to core issues that concern both parties, fully engaging and exchanging ideas.”

During this week’s visit, Kerry told China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, that President Joe Biden’s administration is “very committed” to stabilizing relations between the world’s two biggest economies as they seek to restart high-level contacts.

Ties between the countries have hit a historic low amid disputes over tariffs, access to technology, human rights, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and threats against self-governing Taiwan.

Tensions between the US and China grew following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan last year. China claims the island as its own territory under its one China policy.

Kerry is the third senior Biden administration official to travel to China in recent weeks for meetings with their counterparts following Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. No top-ranking Chinese officials have visited the US since the late 2019 outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in China and the accompanying deterioration in dialogue, particularly on the military and political levels.

Kerry earlier paid a courtesy call on Premier Li Qiang, the party’s second-ranking official, who told him China and the US should cooperate more closely on the “extremely large challenge” posed by global warming.

Kerry responded that “working and showing the rest of the world how we can cooperate and begin to address this with the urgency it requires is incredible.”

No meeting has been announced with China’s paramount leader, Xi Jinping, and Foreign Minister Qin Gang has been absent from public sight for three weeks.

There was no immediate comment on Kerry’s Monday meeting with his counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in the first extensive face-to-face climate discussions between representatives of the world’s two worst climate polluters after a nearly yearlong hiatus.

China leads the world in producing and consuming coal and has proceeded with building new plants that add tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually, while also expanding the use of renewables such as solar and wind power.

China’s non-fossil fuel energy sources now exceed 50 per cent of its total installed electricity generation capacity according to data from the country’s National Reform and Development Commission.

China has pledged to level off carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060 as part of efforts to keep global temperatures from running out of control. The US and the European Union have urged China to adopt more ambitious reduction targets.

As in the US and Europe, northern China has seen record stretches of high temperatures over the course of Kerry’s visit that have threatened crops and prompted cities to open Cold War-era bomb shelters to help residents escape the heat.