John Kerry, the United States’s envoy on climate, has held talks with China’s top diplomat in Beijing, calling for cooperation to tackle global warming and to redefine the troubled diplomatic relations between the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters.
Kerry told Wang Yi on Tuesday that climate talks could provide a new start for US-China ties, which have been mired in disputes over issues including trade, technology and the self-governed island of Taiwan.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“Our hope is that this can be the beginning of a new definition of cooperation and capacity to resolve differences between us,” Kerry told Wang in the meeting at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
“We are very hopeful that this can be the beginning not just of a conversation between you and me and us on the climate track but that we can begin to change the broader relationship,” he said.
Kerry is the third senior US official in recent weeks to travel to China for meetings with their counterparts there, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
China broke off some mid- and high-level contacts with the administration of US President Joe Biden last year, including over climate issues, to show its anger with then-House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August. Beijing considers the democratically-governed island part of its territory.
Other problems have rocked relations since then, including the transit across the US of what Biden administration officials said was a Chinese spy balloon.
Kerry told Wang that Biden was “very committed to stability within this relationship, but also to achieve efforts together that can make a significant difference to the world”.
“From experience, if we work at it we can find the path again in ways that resolve these challenges,” Kerry said. “The world is really looking to us for that leadership, particularly on the climate issue.”
For his part, Wang described Kerry as “my old friend”, saying they have “worked together to solve a series of problems between both sides”.
He praised Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenzhua, for their “hard work” during the 12 hours of talks they held in a Beijing Hotel on Monday.
US officials have declined to comment on the Kerry-Xie discussions. Beijing said after the talks that “climate change is a common challenge faced by all mankind”.
China would “exchange views with the United States on issues related to climate change, and work together to meet challenges and improve the wellbeing of current and future generations”, foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.
As the leading emitter of the greenhouse gases driving climate change, China has pledged to ensure its carbon emissions peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The Biden administration aims to decarbonise the US economy by 2050.
While Kerry has sought to ring-fence climate issues from wider diplomatic disputes, China has said that cooperation on global warming could not be separated from broader concerns.
In a commentary published on Sunday, the Xinhua state news agency said recent US-China official interactions are a “good sign for preventing further miscalculations, and steering bilateral relations back on track”. But it added that Beijing was seeking more concessions on the political side – something the US has said it will not provide.
“It is especially true for the White House to bear in mind that seeking to compartmentalize cooperation with – or competition and suppression against – China in bilateral ties is simply unrealistic in practice and unacceptable for Beijing,” Xinhua said.
“For China-US cooperation to be healthy and sustainable, bilateral ties must be treated as a whole,” it said.