John Kerry, Xie Zhenhua Tires Deliver US-China COP26 Progress – Quartz – Community News
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John Kerry, Xie Zhenhua Tires Deliver US-China COP26 Progress – Quartz

When countries talk about their relations, they often talk about the importance of maintaining people-to-people links. Sometimes that phrase seems like a fluff from the dictionary of diplomatic buzzwords. And sometimes personal ties can be crucial to getting things done, such as the startling US and China pledge to work more closely together on climate change, announced yesterday (Nov. 10) at COP26.

For example, it helps to know that the person on the other side of the table is negotiating in good faith and shares at least some of your beliefs about what the goals should be. When China appointed veteran climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua as special climate envoy in February, John Kerry — who has sat across from Xie many, many times over the past two decades — welcomed the announcement. Kerry, the US’s first presidential climate envoy, considers Xie “a believer” in the need to fight climate change. In diplomatic terms, that makes them good friends.

How the US and China reached their agreement at COP26

That personal history goes a long way to explaining how the two countries were able to reach an agreement at COP26, despite conflict elsewhere. In a joint statement, the two countries expressed concern that efforts to reduce emissions are not meeting what is needed to prevent global warming from exceeding 2°C. China is currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, followed by the US, and currently neither country is on track to make the kinds of reductions necessary to comply with the Paris accord.

“The two sides emphasize the critical importance of closing that gap as soon as possible, especially through increased efforts. They declare their intention to work individually, jointly and with other countries during this decisive decade,” they said. has ended, US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet virtually next week.

“To some extent it is no exaggeration to say that we are where we are today because of these two individuals who are committed to solving the problem of climate change and who are willing to give personal and political importance to this issue,” said Li. Shuo, senior global policy advisor at Greenpeace East Asia. “This is a very good example of politicians, or I should say statesmen, staying on their toes despite the very difficult geopolitics… the US and China cannot afford to disconnect or break up on this issue and that was the main message conveyed by the Joint Declaration. .”

China also agreed to cut its methane emissions – the two countries will hold talks on those reductions in the first half of next year – although it has not signed a pact on methane announced earlier at the summit.

“There is more similarity between the US and China than divergence, making it an area with huge potential for cooperation,” Xie said.

Over the weekend, Xie joked about how much time he spent with Kerry, according to New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman. In the months leading up to the UN climate summit, the two met about 30 times, mostly virtually, Li noted.

Also in 2014, Xie and then Secretary of State John Kerry helped break the long-standing deadlock between the US and China over China’s emissions responsibilities. That agreement was vital to the following year’s successful negotiations on the Paris Agreement, the groundbreaking climate treaty through which the world signed the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Over time, however, the chances of friendship between the US and China diminish.

The number of Chinese students in the US has declined, and most Chinese citizens, including President Xi Jinping, have not left the country for nearly two years because China’s zero-covid approach means a lengthy quarantine on return – Beijing’s is 28 days . Against that background, Li notes, the 60-strong Chinese delegation to Glasgow is a signal of the seriousness with which the country views the climate change crisis.

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