John Kerry, the US president’s special envoy on climate change, speaks at a press conference at the White House on February 27. January.


Evan Vucci/Associated Press

These stakeholders noted last year that the implementation of

John Kerry

was responsible for climate negotiations with China was a recipe for going home with a ton. After Mr. Kerry asked the question in Shanghai last week: What happened to the barrel?



the climate commissioner has had two days of meetings with his colleagues.

Xie Zhenhua

with a joint statement that says something new. Both sides say they are committed to working with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis. Both countries will work to accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions. Kerry made no major concessions to Beijing, and Beijing made no new promises about emissions cuts it wouldn’t make anyway.

In a way, it’s a relief. But all this hot air is not for nothing for the prestige of the United States and a missed opportunity to participate in more important negotiations. By putting climate change at the center of one of its first visits, the Chinese are demonstrating that the United States places this issue above all others in bilateral relations. China will be happy to talk to Americans about climate if it means not having to worry about Taiwan, Hong Kong, Beijing’s oppression of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the South China Sea, North Korea or the theft of intellectual property.

But Beijing is clear that it will ignore any carbon emission commitments that could hurt China’s economic growth. Some countries call on China to do more on climate change, says deputy foreign minister

The Yucheng

what you said last week. That’s not very realistic, I’m afraid.

Instead of provoking a rethink in Beijing, Kerry’s outing in Shanghai gave the Chinese leadership another opportunity to conduct a PR offensive. China welcomes the return of the United States to the Paris agreement and expects them to support the agreement, the vice premier said.

Han Zheng

Kerry said, in a reference to Washington’s withdrawal from the treaty under the president.


Kerry also flattered Beijing with anything but a plea for the presidency.

Xi Jinping

to join another global climate alliance this week.

Meanwhile, Kerry appears to be rallying behind China’s ambitions for a green industrial policy by pledging in a joint statement to deploy policies, measures and technologies to decarbonize industry and energy. For China, this means more industrial policy than environmental policy. Chinese officials will have words ready to read aloud to U.S. officials in future talks about trade imbalances or subsidies. Sir, I want to thank you for your support. Kerry tells China that the U.S. will agree to both, as long as it’s green energy.

Beijing’s rhetoric on the Paris agreement is particularly successful. In the years since the Trump administration pulled out of the agreement in 2017, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have continued to decline, reaching in 2019 the lowest level since 1992 and the lowest per capita level since 1950, thanks in large part to the natural gas drilling revolution in shale formations.

China’s emissions have increased over the same period, and the Paris pledge to reduce emissions doesn’t even begin until 2030. As reported in a Reuters newsletter in February: Last year, China approved the construction of another 36.9 GW of coal-fired power plants, three times as many as the year before, bringing the total number of plants under construction to 88.1 GW. There are 247 GW of coal-fired power currently under development, enough to power all of Germany.


Chinese leaders don’t care about Paris because they know it will not commit them to anything, while Western countries will hurt their economies by imposing new rules and misallocating resources. The Chinese must be dumbfounded that the US government wants to end the shale gas boom that has kept energy prices low and made the US less dependent on foreign oil.

The lack of a new agreement is a blessing because it would restrict the US without doing so for China. But Kerry has proven in Iran and elsewhere that he will leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of a bad deal. No wonder Beijing thinks America is in decline.

Main Street: Pete Buttigieg’s definition of infrastructure is not what Americans think it is. Images : Bloomberg/AP/Getty Images Compiled: Mark Kelly

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Showed up on the 20th. April 2021 in print.

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