The world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and China, have agreed to restart formal climate change talks that had been on hold for more than a year, in a breakthrough that could inject momentum into international climate negotiations that begin later this month in Dubai.
The two countries said they would also step up coordination on curbing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and work together to speed up a transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
The announcements were made in a joint statement following three days of meetings between U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in Sunnylands, California, last week.
It comes ahead of a meeting between President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday, when both sides will attempt to reset relations that have rapidly deteriorated amid heated technology competition, a rogue balloon and increasingly brazen Chinese military activity in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.
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Kerry has made several attempts to revive the bilateral working group over the past year, after Beijing suspended it last August amid spiking tensions over Taiwan, the island democracy China claims as its territory.
When Kerry visited Beijing in July, Xi didn’t meet with him. Instead, Xi delivered a speech saying China’s pace on reducing greenhouse gas emissions “should and must be” determined without outside interference.
Leaders of some of the world’s top climate institutions have been worried that strained relations of these two superpowers could derail progress at international negotiations at the annual U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, in Dubai.
They have been calling on the two superpowers to strike a deal, saying U.S.-China collaboration as key to jump-starting the international community’s lagging effort to limit rising world temperatures, which scientists say are contributing to more deadly fires, floods and storms.
“Such a signal from COP28 would (add) major momentum to our fight against climate change,” International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol told The Post in an interview in September. “I don’t know how likely it is to see an agreement between China and the United States. … But I know that it is very unlikely we reach our climate targets in the absence of that.”