The Biden administration on Saturday called on China to do more to help developing countries fight climate change, urging the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter to support international climate finance funds it has so far refused to support.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen delivered the message during her second day of meetings in Beijing, where she seeks to cultivate areas of cooperation between the United States and China. While China has expressed support for programs to help poor countries cope with the impacts of climate change, it has resisted pouring such funds, arguing that it is also a developing country.
Ms Yellen said China, like the United States, has a responsibility to be a leader in climate finance.
“Climate finance must be tackled efficiently and effectively,” Ms Yellen said at a meeting with a group of Chinese and international experts on sustainable finance on Saturday morning. “I believe that if China supported existing multilateral climate institutions such as the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Investment Funds alongside us and other donor governments, we could have a greater impact than we do now.”
The United States and China are both under pressure from developing countries to mobilize more money for such countries that are struggling to shut down coal plants, develop renewable energy or cope with the impacts of climate change by building things like seawalls, the improve drainage or develop it early. flood and cyclone warning systems.
Under President Barack Obama, the United States pledged $3 billion over four years to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations-led program aimed at helping poor countries. To date, it has delivered $2 billion of that commitment. Republicans have tried several times to block taxpayer spending on the fund and other climate finance, but President Biden has used discretionary spending within the State Department to fulfill part of the US pledge.
China has pledged $3.1 billion and, according to studies, has delivered about 10 percent of it. It also gives money to developing countries through what its leaders call “south-south” cooperation. That’s because under the United Nations climate body, China is still considered a developing country and not an industrialized country, although China now has a much larger manufacturing sector than any other country. It has long resisted pressure to contribute to the same climate funds as rich countries, arguing that advanced economies like the United States have been polluting much longer and have more responsibility to tackle climate change.
“It is not China’s obligation to provide financial assistance,” said Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy, according to UN climate regulations last year in an interview following the creation of a new multilateral fund to help poor countries absorb economic losses if consequences of climate disasters. .
John Morton, a former climate adviser for the Treasury Department under the Biden administration, said any meaningful contribution from China could help the United States get members of Congress and others to approve climate finance. He also said there may be other ways the two superpowers can work together to help developing countries reduce coal use or curb methane, a potent greenhouse gas that leaks from oil and gas wells.
“That would have huge consequences for the world,” he said. “Anytime there is an opportunity to build a closer relationship with China on climate, it is an opportunity that should be seized immediately.”
The US and China are joint leaders of the Group of 20’s Sustainable Finance Working Group, giving the two countries an opportunity to collaborate more closely on global climate issues.
Ms Yellen is the second cabinet member of the Biden administration to travel to China in recent weeks; Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was there in June. Later in July, John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, will visit to resume global warming negotiations between the world’s two biggest polluters.
In addition, President Biden will attend a forum in London on Tuesday to explore ways to mobilize climate finance, specifically to “bring private finance from the sidelines, for clean energy deployment and adaptation in developing countries,” National Security Agency Jake Sullivan of the White House. advisor, said Friday.
During her four-day trip to China, Ms Yellen has sought to reopen communication channels with her counterparts in Beijing after years of growing distrust aggravated by trade wars and export controls on sensitive technology. In meetings this week, Ms Yellen criticized China’s treatment of foreign companies, but also argued that more frequent talks between top officials would help prevent policy misunderstandings from festering.
The finance minister also discussed climate finance in a meeting with Premier Li Qiang in Beijing on Friday. On Saturday afternoon, she will meet with Deputy Prime Minister He Lifeng, her counterpart who oversees the Chinese economy.
In the past two years, China has built more coal plants and expanded coal mines, raising concerns in Washington.
Chinese officials have said they plan to phase out carbon emissions completely by 2060, no later than 2030. And China is the world leader in installing solar energy and exporting solar panels to other countries.
China is doubling coal consumption partly for national security reasons — it doesn’t want to rely more heavily on imported oil and natural gas, which could be cut off during a crisis.
China’s energy experts say the new coal-fired plants will mainly be used during peak electricity demand, not around the clock. But critics say the plants, once built, will inevitably harm the climate in the long run.