Hottest Summer Ever Recorded Exposes Urgency for US-China Climate Cooperation

US Climate Envoy to Visit China for Climate Talks Amid Heat Wave Challenges

John Kerry, the US climate envoy, is scheduled to travel to Beijing on Sunday to restart climate negotiations with China. The visit comes at a time when both countries are experiencing extreme heat waves and highlights the urgent need for cooperation on climate change. As the world’s two biggest polluters, the US and China account for nearly 40% of global emissions and must work together to address the climate crisis.

Beijing, in particular, has been grappling with record-breaking temperatures, with almost half of the days in which temperatures exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit occurring in the past few weeks. This has led to dried-up reservoirs, crop and livestock losses, power supply issues, and rolling blackouts in large metropolises. In the US, the Southwest is also facing an extreme heat wave, with temperatures reaching as high as 120°F.

According to Li Shuo, senior global policy adviser at Greenpeace China, the shared experience of the impacts of climate change should bring China and the US back on the same page, despite their political differences. The suspension of climate talks between the two countries last year due to heightened geopolitical tensions was seen as a setback in addressing the climate crisis. Experts argue that climate discussions should not be hindered by bilateral relations and that more resilience is needed.

While no major announcements are expected from Kerry’s visit to Beijing, experts emphasize the significance of the visit and the optics of who he will meet with. The US officials plan to press China on commitments to reduce coal burning and methane emissions, while Beijing is likely to ask for the removal of tariffs on Chinese solar panels. Although breakthroughs on these political issues are unlikely, the hope is for the two sides to resume their joint working group on climate cooperation and pledge to continue communication before the COP28 in Dubai in November.

Kerry’s trip has faced criticism from Republicans in the US, who argue that he should do more to push China to cut emissions. However, Kerry defended his trip, stating that it would be diplomatic and political malpractice for the US not to engage with China on climate change. The speed of China’s transition from coal will also be a major topic of conversation during the visit, as it is crucial for the country to resolve this issue to achieve its goal of peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.

In conclusion, Kerry’s visit to China for climate talks comes at a critical time with both countries facing the challenges of extreme heat waves. The urgency for cooperation on climate change is evident, and while no major announcements are expected, the optics of the visit and the resumption of joint working group discussions are important steps forward. Both countries face pressure from domestic politics, but the need to address the climate crisis should take precedence in their bilateral discussions.