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COP 27: US-China climate restart provides relief to downbeat UN summit

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US and China to restart stalled climate talks after Joe Biden and Xi Jinping meet, providing relief to diplomats and climate experts gathered in Egypt at UN COP27 summit on how to limit catastrophic global warming .

The two leaders agreed to “empower key senior officials to maintain communication and deepen constructive efforts” on a range of transnational issues, including climate change, global economic stability and food security, a statement said. minutes of the White House meeting.

The White House said leaders “spoke candidly” about many issues at the Bali meeting. While Biden has raised objections to China’s policies toward Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, he has made it clear that the United States will work with China on critical global issues where it has a mutual interest.

At last year’s COP26 UN summit in Glasgow, Washington and Beijing made a rare joint statement of cooperation on climate change, but the talks were suspended by China in protest at the president’s visit. Nancy Pelosi Chamber in Taiwan in August.

The rapprochement gives US climate envoy John Kerry five days at COP27 to begin formal negotiations with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua.

This development was welcomed by the UN Secretary-General in Egypt, where observers and negotiators in the country have reported that discussions on critical issues have become bogged down in political divisions.

“There is no way to meet the climate challenge we face without the cooperation of all members of the G20 and in particular without the cooperation of the two largest economies, the United States and China,” said António Guterres. “And I’m very happy that the countries had a summit today.”

Xie Zhenhua, China's special envoy for climate change

Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change, held informal talks with his US counterpart, who urged China to allow formal negotiations to resume © Bloomberg

Over the past few weeks, Kerry said he and Xie Zhenhua had several informal discussions, including an informal meeting at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference.

Kerry had repeatedly urged Chinese leaders to allow formal talks to resume, stressing that talks between the world’s two biggest polluters were crucial to tackling the “existential problem” of climate change that “involves every nation, including including our friends in China”.

In a statement after the Bali meeting, China’s foreign ministry said the countries had a responsibility “to maintain a constructive relationship” and had “a mutual interest” in the need to tackle climate change.

“The US side is committed to keeping the channels of communication open between the two presidents and at all levels of government. . . and to strengthen necessary cooperation and play a key role in addressing climate change, food security and other major global challenges,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

He added: “The two countries will work together for the success of the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

The US-China joint statement released in Glasgow last year contained few new commitments, apart from China saying it would tackle emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. But China has stopped short of joining a US-EU pact to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

Nonetheless, climate change experts and negotiators in Sharm el-Sheikh welcomed the news. “This unequivocal signal from the two largest economies to work together to tackle the climate crisis is more than welcome, it is essential,” said Manish Bapna, President and CEO of NRDC, the climate change advocacy group. environment, which called on the two countries to “act with speed and conviction to meet the challenge of the moment.”

Johan Rockström, a professor of Earth system sciences and director of the Potsdam Institute, said the restart of US-China climate relations was “more than symbolic”. Both countries have played a critical role in high-level UN discussions on how to handle everything from decarbonization plans to financing the poorest countries suffering from the effects of climate change.

Ani Dasgupta, president of the non-profit research group World Resources Institute, said the global community was “breathing a sigh of relief”. “There is simply no time left for geopolitical fault lines to tear the United States and China away from the table in climate negotiations,” Dasgupta said.

The announcement came the same day EU leaders tried to back down at COP27 as countries in the bloc rushed to replace fossil fuels no longer coming from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

Frans Timmermans, the commissioner responsible for the EU’s Green Deal, hit back at suggestions that the energy crisis meant the bloc was falling behind in its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from levels of 1990, saying “nothing could be further from the truth”.

Timmermans said that if the energy problems mean that “in the short term we are consuming more coal than we had anticipated, it is because we are going to go much faster in our energy transition. Ultimately, this does not lead to a larger EU carbon footprint.”

At the same time, the G7 Presidency, held by Germany, has launched an initiative to provide funds to help countries affected by extreme weather disasters due to climate change. The so-called Global Shield was developed with the V20 group of climate-vulnerable countries, which now numbers 58. Pakistan, Ghana and Bangladesh will be among the first beneficiaries, according to the program announced at the COP27 summit.

Additional reporting by Alice Hancock in Brussels

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