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Bilateral political tensions threaten climate cooperation, China warns US

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry (R) is seen on a screen with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting via video link as Kerry visits Tianjin, China, on September 1, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

China has warned the United States that the ongoing political tensions between the two countries could undermine efforts to combat climate change, calling on Washington to improve ties with Beijing in order to make progress on the issue.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the remarks during a meeting with visiting US climate envoy, John Kerry, via video link, according to a Foreign Ministry statement late on Wednesday.

The two sides’ joint efforts to combat climate change and global warming are an “oasis,” Wang said, “But surrounding the oasis is a desert, and the oasis could be desertified very soon.”

He also said climate cooperation could not be disentangled from the broader relations between the two countries. “It is impossible for China-US climate cooperation to be elevated above the overall environment of China-US relations,” Wang said.

He said the United States suffered from a “major strategic miscalculation towards China,” urging Washington “to stop seeing China as a threat and opponent.”

“The ball is now in the United States’ court,” he said, adding that Beijing was ready to discuss cooperation with the US on affairs of mutual concern.

Meanwhile, Kerry told Wang that China “plays a super critical role” in tackling climate change and that the challenge was as big as any that both countries face on the global level. Kerry said the US remained committed to working with other nations to tackle climate change, according to the US Department of State.

The climate crisis “must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands,” he said, while encouraging China to “take additional steps to reduce emissions.”

Kerry is in the northeastern Chinese city of Tianjin to hold face-to-face talks with his counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, on the countries’ joint response to climate change. The meeting in Tianjin is the second to be held between Kerry and Xie.

Climate watchers are hoping that the talks will lead to more ambitious pledges by both countries to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

China has repeatedly warned in recent months that environmental cooperation could be hurt by deteriorating Sino-US relations. Tensions between China and the United States have soared in recent months over a range of issues, including the origin of the new coronavirus, the imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong, and rising tensions in the South China Sea.

The US and China announced actions to tackle climate change following meetings in Shanghai in April.

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, followed by the US, which has historically emitted more than any other country to date.

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