U.S. Wants to Insulate Climate Talks From Tensions With China
In the lead-up to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, then-President Obama flew to Beijing and won a major concession from President Xi Jinping—that China would peak its carbon emissions around 2030. It paved the way for the historic accord.
As President Biden seeks to aim higher before a global climate conference in the U.K. this November, he may find that getting on the same page with China will be harder. U.S.-China relations on climate matter not only because the two countries account for just less than half of the world’s emissions, but also because what they do sends a signal to the rest of the world.
Biden administration officials—climate envoy John Kerry and Secretary of State Antony Blinken among them—have signaled they want to shield climate diplomacy from the more turbulent aspects of the bilateral relationship. But experts and government officials worry that tensions on everything including Taiwan and Hong Kong could undermine those discussions. “We’re in a difficult place, and yet we have this inescapable reality that we can’t address the global challenge of climate change without coordination between the U.S. and China,” says Kelly Sims Gallagher, who oversaw Chinese climate diplomacy in the Obama White House.