Cop27, China and the United States talk to each other again

Cop27, China and the United States talk to each other again


It is the day of finance, but the news, as often happens, does not come from the official program. John Kerry, special envoy for the United States climate, and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua met on Tuesday 8 November in Sharm El Sheikh, during Cop27, the United Nations climate conference.

It was Kerry himself who communicated it during an event organized by the Wall Street Journal. Informal chatter, reports a source, who asked to remain anonymous, given the delicacy of the situation. Topics of the interview: methane, deforestation, ecological transition. "We need to talk to each other because we are the two largest economies, and the largest emitters on the planet," Kerry said.

The suspended dialogue

China and the United States have been talking about climate for years, a relationship that paved the way for the 2015 Paris agreements. Kerry and Xie themselves had already signed a cooperation agreement last year at Cop26 in Glasgow.

But the pact did not stand up to the difficult semester that followed, with the invasion of Ukraine and the clash between autocracies and Western powers that has taken place since the day of the invasion. Above all, it did not stand up to the visit of Nancy Pelosi (speaker of the US House) to Taiwan last August, a clear signal from Washington when China's claims to the democratic and autonomous island are back to being pressing. Relations suspended, since then, to the disappointment of those who believed in it. The American said he had sent emails and messages to the counterpart, without response. Now, writes the New York daily, things could change, with a possible face to face between the two presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping already at the G20 in Bali next week.

The pivot of American climate decisions

John Kerry has devoted much of his political career to the environment. War hero in Vietnam, candidate for the 2004 presidential elections, secretary of state with Barack Obama, then special envoy for the climate from 2020 with Joe Biden, has been among the pivotal decisions of the US administration for two decades. Listened advisor, charismatic speaker, cynical frontman when needed (and often has been). If Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was able to beat the shoe at the United Nations General Assembly, he, married to wealthy heiress Theresa Heinz, is gifted with finer manners. But the veteran's zest has not vanished under the weight of the years and the parlor pleasantries.

Between carbon and concrete

Kerry and Xie have talked to each other, but much remains to be done. On Wednesday morning, the American presented the plan for a new carbon credit market (called the Energy Transition Accelerator), which was rejected by many observers. Meanwhile, China, reports Bloomberg, has moved the peak of emissions for the construction materials sector (in practice cement) to 2030, which alone would be worth as much as the entire electricity production of India. Building materials are the third economic sector for emissions after energy and steel. And also one of the most difficult to take down. "This industry will peak [in emissions, ed.] Only when Beijing stops using construction as a stimulus for GDP," Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst for the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, commented on Twitter.