Kerry Urges Global Cooperation, Including From China, on Climate Change

John Kerry, in Asia on his first trip as the special presidential envoy for climate, is urging cooperation between the U.S. and China, and everyone else, on climate change because “no one nation can solve this problem by itself — impossible. Each of us needs everybody else at the table to make this happen.” FILE – Then-Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with China’s Special Representative on Climate Change Xie Zhenhua prior to the opening of the COP21 conference in Le Bourget, Dec.12, 2015.Former U.S. Secretary of State Kerry will not meet China’s climate czar Xie Zhenhua on this outing, although the two know each other from previous interactions.  Xie is a central figure in Beijing’s plan to eliminate carbon emissions by 2060 and its chief negotiator at the 200-country-strong FILE – Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden looks at an array of solar panels during a tour at the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in Plymouth, N.H., June 4, 2019.Biden is planning a two-day virtual summit with world leaders on April 22 and 23. The White House website says: “The Leaders’ Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency — and the economic benefits — of stronger climate action. It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow.”  Biden’s recent $2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes an investment of $35 billion into clean technologies and $174 billion on overhauling the country’s electrical vehicle market.  Meanwhile, China’s investment in clean energy reached $83.4 billion in 2019. “The magnitude of the challenge is the most difficult problem facing both; the financial costs and disruption to people’s lives involved in changing Chinese and U.S. energy policies is enormous,” said the Hudson Institute’s Weitz.  Obstacles to climate partnershipBut sharp differences on human rights and trade are creating obstacles for possible cooperation on climate issues between the two superpowers.  “China and the U.S. are entering into an era of increasingly open competition, criticism, and rivalry in a variety of spheres — economic, diplomatic, technological, and possibly military — which make any kind of cooperation harder to achieve,” Carsten Vala, a political science professor at Loyola University Maryland, told VOA Mandarin.  “The toughest things are, no doubt, China’s increasing assertiveness in international relations,” he said. “That stance derives from the Chinese Communist Party leadership’s belief that it handled the COVID-19 pandemic better and survived the global economic slowdown better than Western countries, along with projections that its economy is predicted to rival that of the United States in the next two decades.”  This has made China’s top leaders “less willing to compromise,” he added.  Turner, of the Wilson Center, agreed. “The Chinese and U.S. administrations are navigating some tough disagreements on trade and human rights, etc., which does not leave much political space for climate collaboration/diplomacy,” she said.  Yet she pointed out that Chinese-U.S. cooperation on climate and clean energy is not accomplished only by the national governments because “there is still subnational, research, and NGO climate collaboration happening between the two countries.”

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