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July 17, 2023

Editor’s note: US and China gear up to discuss climate change

CAPITOL HILL building
Opposition in Congress has prevented the US from meeting its pledge to raise climate finance for developing countries to $11.4bn a year (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter.

Dear Reader,

The world’s two biggest polluters, China and the US, will meet for the first time this week to discuss climate change since China suspended bilateral climate talks following the visit by Nancy Pelosi, former US speaker, to Taiwan in August 2022. US special climate envoy John Kerry will meet his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, and other senior Chinese officials in Beijing.

Reducing tensions between China and the US, at least around climate change, is vital if there is any hope for an ambitious outcome at COP28 in Dubai this December. An ability to put aside differences and work together helped move forward discussions at COP26 in Glasgow nearly two years ago.

Climate finance is one area where better co-operation between the two countries could make a difference. It remains to be seen if progress can be made on China playing a bigger role in financing the global energy transition than it has in the past. In the US, however, Republican opposition in Congress has prevented the country from meeting its pledge to increase climate finance to $11.4bn a year for developing countries.

The US will also want to see movement from China on coal. Beijing has approved a historic number of coal power plants in recent months. This trend risks being used by certain policymakers, and some in the private sector, to justify delaying climate action in Europe and the US.

Delaying action, though, could backfire for financial institutions, suggests research published today by UK non-profit ShareAction. Sixty-eight per cent of respondents to a YouGov survey say they would view their financial service provider more negatively if they knew it were investing in businesses involved in deforestation and causing damage to the environment. And more than a third of respondents say they would probably change banks if they discovered their bank was investing in companies using large quantities of fossil fuels.

Climate scientists are clear there is no time to waste in taking action to reduce emissions as temperature records continue to be broken around the world and the summer of 2023 becomes synonymous with drought and wildfires in Europe, while parts of Asia and the US, in addition to extreme heat, suffer heavy damage from torrential downpours and flooding.

“We are in uncharted territory and that is worrying news for the planet,” says Professor Christopher Hewitt, director of the World Meteorological Organization’s climate services.

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is EU correspondent at Sustainable Views

A service from the Financial Times