Jul 18, 2023, 10:17am EDT

What to know: Kerry calls for greater climate cooperation with China

REUTERS/Florence Lo

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The News

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry pressed for greater cooperation in combating climate change during a visit to Beijing.

Experts are hopeful the two superpowers could set aside wide-ranging tensions to agree on ways to curb methane emissions in particular.

We’ve collected analysis and news you should know about Kerry’s trip and his proposals for Sino-U.S. cooperation on climate.

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  • Chinese authorities are unlikely to heed Kerry’s advice to cut methane emissions and coal production, “though they might do their diplomatic best to humor him,” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board argued. Under the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, China was allowed to increase emissions until 2030 while other signatories, including the U.S., promised to cut emissions. Under that agreement, China’s methane emissions have soared.
  • Any signs from China “that it’s stepping up on its climate target, in particular assurances that it is reining in its coal power sector, and the launch of an action plan to control methane emissions” should be taken as a success by Kerry, according to Byford Tsang, a senior policy adviser at climate think-tank E3G. Climate talks were due to go ahead in April, but broke down after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was shot down while flying over the U.S. — Financial Times
  • Kerry, the third senior U.S. official to visit China in recent weeks, hopes that fraying Sino-American relations can be rebuilt around shared climate goals. However Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, has said the U.S. should have a “rational, pragmatic and positive” stance towards China. The U.S. has pushed China to cut emissions for years, to little avail. Beijing, nonetheless, stands by its commitment of becoming carbon neutral by 2060. — South China Morning Post
  • China’s leaders have been more willing to engage with the West as the country’s economy has slowed. Data released this week showed that the country’s GDP grew by just 3% in the latest quarter, far below the country’s goal, the latest in a series of figures that have prompted a diplomatic shift. Chinese authorities have also shown greater openness to foreign businesses while relaxing control over the Chinese tech sector. — The New York Times
  • China and the U.S. should cooperate on reducing methane emissions from ruminating animals, rice production, and waste disposal, experts from the World Resources Institute said. For instance reducing methane emissions from animals — responsible for almost 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions — could be achieved within two or three years and at a cost of $100 million to $200 million, the WRI’s experts said.
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Know More

China remains the world’s largest emitter of methane, almost doubling the total output of India, the second largest, and its emissions have grown by more than 50% since the 1990s. Methane is a more potent, albeit less long-lived, greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.