China and the United States have failed to reach an agreement on climate change, with Beijing rebuffing calls to make more public pledges on climate change before a United Nations’ climate summit in Glasgow in November, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
In a report published on Friday, the Hong Kong-based newspaper said that the talks also got entangled in the debate on human rights, after Washington recently targeted Beijing’s solar power industry over allegations of forced labour of minority Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
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“China already has its own plans and road map for achieving its climate goals,” Chinese leaders told US climate envoy John Kerry, the report quoted a source as saying.
The collapse of talks came at a critical time when the world’s two largest economies were grappling with the deadly consequences of climate change, including the recent deadly flooding in New York, and the torrential rain that hit several Chinese cities in July and August and killed hundreds of people.
China and the US are also the world’s top two polluters, producing 10 million and 5.4 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019, according to Climate Trade.
On Friday, Greenpeace East Asia published its Annual 2020 report warning that because of climate change, the Arctic may experience a sea-ice-free summer as soon as 2035 – much earlier than 2050 as earlier predicted.
Li Shuo, a senior global policy adviser for Greenpeace East Asia, told SCMP that the lack of progress during Kerry’s trip “does not bode well” for the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November.
“No outcome is the outcome. The [US-China] relationship is taking its toll on the planet.”
Kerry left the Chinese city of Tianjin on Friday without getting a firm commitment from Beijing, although China’s environment ministry had said that the dialogue was “candid, in-depth and pragmatic” while promising that discussions will continue.
According to the SCMP, Beijing reportedly rebuffed Kerry’s proposal to accelerate China’s climate efforts, including public commitment to the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) limit of global warming targeted in the 2015 Paris Agreement and a definite time frame for carbon emissions to peak before 2030.
China reportedly scoffed at the US demand for a moratorium on financing overseas coal-fired projects, while also imposing sanctions on Chinese solar companies for human rights in Xinjiang.
On Thursday, Kerry had warned that Beijing’s coal building spree could “undo” global capacity to meet environmental targets.
Kerry told journalists that the US made it “clear that the addition of more coal plants represents a significant challenge to the efforts of the world to deal with the climate crisis”.
Despite pledges to peak coal consumption before 2030, China brought 38.4 gigawatts of new coal-fired power into operation last year – more than three times what was brought on line globally.
China has challenged the US to fix relations with Beijing in order to make progress on climate change.
But Kerry urged the Chinese government not to let environmental cooperation be affected by tensions between the world’s two biggest polluters, calling it a “global challenge”.
“It is essential … no matter what differences we have, that we have to address the climate crisis,” he said.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi had told Kerry earlier in the visit that cooperation on global warming could not be disentangled from broader diplomacy between the two countries.
In a video call with the climate envoy, Wang accused Washington of a “major strategic miscalculation towards China”, according to the ministry statement.
“It is impossible for China-US climate cooperation to be elevated above the overall environment of China-US relations,” Wang said.
He added that “the ball is now in the United States’s court, and the US should stop seeing China as a threat and opponent”.