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China Warned to Keep Politics Out of Climate Talks by Kerry

The US climate envoy met China’s top diplomat Wang Yi and Premier Li Qiang as Washington bids to rebuild trust with Beijing ahead of COP28

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, at right walks next to U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns as they arrive for meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, July 19, 2023. Ng Han Guan/Pool via REUTERS
US climate envoy John Kerry, walks next to US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns as they arrive for meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. Photo: Reuters


China has been told to keep politics out of climate change discussions by US climate envoy John Kerry, as the world’s two biggest polluters continue their talks on reducing carbon emissions.

Kerry told Chinese Vice-President Han Zheng on Wednesday, after two days of what he called constructive but complex talks, that climate change is a “universal threat” that should be handled separately from broader diplomatic issues.

“We have the ability to … make a difference with respect to climate,” he said at a meeting at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, China’s sprawling parliament building.

Kerry arrived in Beijing on Sunday as heatwaves scorched parts of Europe, Asia and the United States, underscoring the need for governments to take drastic action to reduce carbon emissions, which contribute to global warming and extreme weather events.


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He has held meetings with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi and Premier Li Qiang as well as veteran climate envoy Xie Zhenhua in a bid to rebuild trust between the two sides ahead of COP28 climate talks in Dubai at the end of the year.

“If we can come together over these next months leading up to COP28, which will be the most important since Paris, we will have an opportunity to be able to make a profound difference on this issue,” he told Han.

Han said the two countries had maintained close communication and dialogue on climate since Kerry’s appointment as envoy, adding that a joint statement issued by the two sides has sent a “positive signal” to the world.

Kerry told reporters earlier that his talks with Chinese officials this week have been constructive but complicated, with the two sides still dealing with political “externalities”, including Taiwan.

“We’re just reconnecting,” he said. “We’re trying to re-establish the process we have worked on for years.”

“We’re trying to carve out a very clear path to the COP to be able to cooperate and work as we have wanted to with all the externalities,” Kerry said.

Climate diplomacy between the world’s top two emitters was suspended in August last year following the visit of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, a democratically governed island that China claims.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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