John Kerry tackles China’s climate crisis amid extreme heatwaves

When US climate envoy John Kerry arrives in Beijing, he experiences one of the hottest summers on record in the city. With temperatures exceeding 40°C on several occasions, China and the United States are experiencing extreme heat waves. The urgency of tackling the climate crisis is becoming apparent as the world’s two biggest polluters grapple with the consequences of rising temperatures and growing environmental challenges. Despite geopolitical tensions, climate cooperation between China and the United States is crucial to reducing global emissions.

Bringing together the biggest polluters to fight climate change

There are around 40% global greenhouse gas emissions. China and US responsible for that. To avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, these nations must collaborate on significant reductions in fossil fuel production. Unfortunately, climate talks have been frozen for almost a year due to political tensions. However, the shared experience of devastating heat waves should serve as a wake-up call, prompting both countries to prioritize climate cooperation.

A symbolic trip to relaunch dialogue

John Kerry ‘s visit is the Biden administration’s latest effort to mend strained relations with Beijing. Although no major announcements are expected, the importance lies in re-establishing communication channels. As US climate envoy, Kerry plans to engage with Chinese officials to address the climate crisis, promote greater implementation and ensure the success of COP28 (Conference of the Parties) in Dubai. As symbolic as it may be, Kerry’s meeting with key Chinese figures will indicate the extent of Beijing’s commitment to future engagement.

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A hard road to walk

China and the United States both face domestic political pressures, complicating climate negotiations. Republicans in the United States have criticized Kerry for his engagement with China, citing human rights concerns and strategic rivalries. However, Kerry stressed the importance of cooperation in solving the climate crisis, given China’s important role as the world’s largest emitter and second-largest economy. Meanwhile, China is grappling with the transition away from coal, a major source of emissions. Achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 requires significant efforts to phase out coal power and invest in renewables.

The dilemma of phasing out coal

China’s commitment to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 requires a decisive move away from coal. Moreover,  the country has made substantial progress in clean energy installations, it still relies heavily on coal for power generation. Electricity shortages have led to the construction of new coal-fired power plants, posing a challenge to China’s climate policy. Balancing energy security with the expansion of renewable energy is a critical task, as reducing coal use is essential for deep emissions reductions.

Conclusion:

John Kerry ‘s visit to China marks a crucial step in reviving climate cooperation between the world’s two biggest polluters. The scorching heat waves that have hit both countries underscore the urgency of tackling the climate crisis. However, the resumption of dialogue on climate issues is imperative to protect the planet and future generations. Phasing out coal, embracing renewable energy, and committing to drastically reducing emissions will be significant challenges for China and the United States. By working together, they can lead the way to a greener and more sustainable future, setting a positive example for the rest of the world. The time to act is now and the stakes have never been higher.