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Envoys agree on necessity of climate action

By ANGUS MCNEICE in London | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-26 10:15

Xie Zhenhua, China's special envoy for climate change, sits with US climate envoy John Kerry during a session of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

Beijing, Washington call for concrete steps amid growing international challenges

China's special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, has said the world "cannot abandon" the Paris Agreement on climate change, and his United States counterpart, John Kerry, has said countries should not use the Russia-Ukraine conflict as an excuse to let up on the climate fight.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Xie urged all countries to work together and "walk the walk" on fighting climate change.

"We have to turn our pledges into concrete actions," said Xie, who represented China at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, in Glasgow in November.

Despite some progress, global carbon emissions increased by 6 percent and coal-generated power use went up 9 percent in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.

More recently, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has disrupted gas supplies and prices, prompting several developed nations to explore new domestic fossil fuel projects in order to bolster energy security.

"In Davos, we are facing an even greater challenge than before," Xie said while participating in a panel discussion with Kerry, who is the US special presidential envoy for climate.

Kerry said, "Now, Ukraine is being used as a lever, to make the argument that you've got to have this energy security, which you do have to have, nobody doubts that, but it's a headlong plunge to say it means we need to drill a lot more and pump a lot more and build out more infrastructure."

Xie and Kerry met many times last year and were instrumental in finalizing the US-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s, which was announced at COP26.

Xie said, "At COP26 we made a joint declaration, and what we will do now is turn this joint statement into action and cooperation between the US and China."

Kerry said that, in Glasgow, collective pledges meant that 65 percent of global gross domestic product is now committed to keeping global warming to within 1.5 C this century.

"We need to move, accelerate, do more," he said.

The US and China are making progress on putting together a group to work toward quickly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Kerry said.

He added that "we are going to work on the practicalities of how we move faster" to reduce emissions and "maybe China could help us better understand some things we could do better".

Xie outlined a number of "proactive and concrete actions" that China has taken in the past few years to accelerate its green transition, including pledges to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

With China hosting the COP15 biodiversity summit in the city of Kunming, China has taken a leading position in taking measures to protect its own natural resources and encouraging other countries to do the same, he said in a speech.

The proportion of coal in the country's energy mix has dropped from 74 percent to 56 percent in recent years, and China will no longer build new coal-powered plants abroad, said Xie, adding that China has reversed forest loss and will plant 70 billion trees during the next decade.

Zhao Ruinan contributed to this story.

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