China Communication Chill Could Threaten COP27 Talks

China Communication Chill Could Threaten COP27 Talks

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry reiterated his call for China to collaborate with the US to cut emissions ahead of COP27, scheduled to begin on November 7 in Egypt. China -- the most prolific emitter in the world -- effectively froze climate discussions with the US in retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Now, Kerry says, China’s absence from climate talks and their slow-rolling deliverables on COP26 climate pledges threatens to slow the global fight against climate change. "Absent China, are we getting the best hope for where we want to try to go? Not, not in my judgment,” Kerry told the Guardian.

Council on Foreign Relations: COP27 and International Climate Action | A Conversation with John Kerry, October 25, 2022.

The Global City: The Road to COP27, May 13, 2022.

WION: World leaders to arrive in Egypt to attend COP27, October 6, 2022.

Why This Matters

Both the US and China have contributed more to climate change than any other country in the last three decades. Each has caused $2 trillion in damage since 1990. At COP26, the two countries released the US-China Joint Glasgow Declaration which expressed a collaborative commitment to pursue climate solutions, including methane emissions reduction. Now, as countries gear up for COP27, leaders are fearful that diplomatic tensions could stop countries from reaching a meaningful agreement.

Still, many remain optimistic. Nate Hultman, the director of the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland told the Guardian

For both China and the US, the stakes are higher than ever. In the past year, both countries suffered brutal flooding and unending droughts. Dry weather crippled hydropower infrastructure in China’s Sichuan region, forcing factories to go without power, while in the US, extreme weather may have cost taxpayers more than $100 billion in 2022 alone.

Carbon Brief: Which countries are historically responsible for climate change?, October 5, 2021.

New York Times, November 12, 2021.

Source: Global Carbon Project·

Note: The rich, developed countries group is based on the United Nations’ Annex II definition. International transport is not counted as part of either group’s total emissions. The data reflects territory-based carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement, but does not include land-use and forestry. The graphic shows emissions from countries and territories.

CNN, November 3, 2021.

New York Times Events: Here’s What’s New and What’s Next | Halfway to COP27, June 30, 2021.

China’s Clean Energy Plan

Despite stonewalling US climate diplomats, China continues to forge ahead with their own plans for clean energy development. A "concept document” published by the country last October called for the development of a clean energy partnership among its allied countries to encourage green energy investments and collaboration and expand the demand for China’s clean energy products and technologies. The profit-driven growth plan comes as some countries have warned against letting China further extend its outsized control over clean energy supply chains.

Bloomberg: How China Plans to Win the Future of Energy, March 15, 2022.

Bloomberg: Inside China's Massive Plans for Clean Power, December 6, 2021.

CNBC: How The US Fell Behind China In The Fight Against Climate Change, November 15, 2020.

SPEC Kerry illustrated the situation as it stands, ahead of COP27, stating:

China committed to release an ambitious plan by this COP to cut its methane pollution. And we had wanted to be working with them in the course of these last months. Obviously, that opportunity we lost for reasons everybody knows. But we look forward to an updated 2030 NDC from China which accelerates CO2 reductions and addresses all greenhouse gases within their target.

World Resources Institute: What we need for a successful COP27, October 7, 2022.

Bertelsmann Foundation: A Global Security Threat | Climate Change, February 28, 2022.