Kerry Seeks to Separate Climate from Geopolitics

During his official visit to Beijing from 16 to 19 July 2023, US Climate Envoy John Kerry called #ClimateChange a ‘universal crisis’ and that the US and China must rise above their geopolitical rivalry to address it together urgently.

Chinese President Xi Jinping responded indirectly to Kerry via an article in the People’s Daily in which he stated that China climate plans “should be and must be determined by ourselves, and never under the sway of others.”

To which, Kerry quickly replied: “The US is not dictating to China or any nation. If anything is dictating, it is the science.” Kerry acknowledged the climate cooperation between the world’s top two emitters is proving to be quite a challenge.

Currently, China’s plans to peak its emissions by 2030 and to achieve #CarbonNeutrality by 2060. To that effect, China has also been building solar farms at an unprecedented rate and scale unmatched by any country in the world. However, it has stopped short from putting a freeze on coal-fired thermal power plants.

On the other hand, China will put a stop to the sale of fossil fuel-driven vehicles by 2035 and is actively promoting electric vehicles (#EV). In fact, China’s strategy is to become a leader in the manufacture of EV and the batteries that will replace the combustion engines.

Net Zero20502060
Vehicles Powered by Fossil FuelsBan sales by 2035Ban sales by 2035
Electric VehiclesDerisk supply chainBecome world leader
PhotovoltaicsLukewarm deploymentAggressive deployment

For its part, the US commits to achieve #NetZero by 2050. The transport sector covering cars, trucks, ships and planes account nearly for a quarter of the greenhouse emissions in the USA.

On the EV front, US President Biden issued Executive Order 14057 that mandates all new light duty vehicles for government use shall be zero-emitting by 2027. Then, by 2035 all other vehicles sold in the USA will have to be zero emissions. In addition to EV, the US is also pursuing alternative zero-emission technologies such as hydrogen and other biofuels.

Despite much talk, no agreement could be reached between the world’s two top polluters. The whole world is closely watching the two leading economies, which are supposed to set an example, just as record temperatures were recorded in Europe, US and China.

The Chinese side also recalled that President Trump reneged on its promises and even took the USA out of the climate accord, claiming that “global warming was a fiction.”

US Climate Envoy John Kerry met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People on 18 July 2023

During his four-day visit, Kerry met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Diplomatic Chief Wang Yi and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua. However, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave Kerry the cold shoulder but warmly welcomed former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who flew to Beijing despite being 100 years old of age. Kerry’s visit follows closely in the footsteps of US State Secretary Blinken and US Treasury Secretary Yellen.

Nevertheless, US Climate Envoy remained positive and declared that the fact that China has agreed to resume Climate talks is a sign of progress in itself. “This is hard stuff. You talk it through, you build a relationship, you give people a rationale for doing something that’s based on their own interest.”

During #COP27 in November 2022, it is to be recalled that Kerry announced the creation of a carbon offset plan dubbed the Energy Transition Accelerator (#ETA). Its key objective is to support developing economies to step up the shift from fossil fuels to renewables. Today, the talks between US and China will pave the way to COP28 which is scheduled to take place in Dubai in November 2023.