The two presidents agreed climate action on the sidelines of the G20 was in their common interest, despite tensions over Taiwan’s status
The United States and China are set to resume formal climate cooperation after their leaders Joe Biden and Xi Jinping held a four-hour late-night meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
China had suspended climate talks after the Speaker of the US Lower House of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan in August. Beijing does not recognize the island democracy as an independent nation.
Although the Bali heat did not thaw relations enough for a joint statement, both presidents agreed that climate action was a priority.
The summary of the US government meeting said“President Biden has emphasized that the United States and China must work together to address transnational challenges – such as climate change.”
The Chinese government summary said the two parties “agreed to work together to promote the success of [Cop27]and that climate change is part of their “common interests” and is “inseparable from the coordination and cooperation between China and the United States”.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Biden described the meeting as “open and candid.” He said he was not looking for “conflict” but to “manage this competition responsibly” and to “work together where we can”.
At Cop27 on Saturday, US climate envoy John Kerry said he and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua were talking informally, with no agenda, notes or decisions. They would need a signal from Bali, where their presidents are attending a G20 leaders’ summit, to put the conversation on a formal footing.
At COP26 last year, the two sides produced a joint accord, under which the two agreed to reduce methane emissions. Xie said last week that China was close to finalizing its methane plan. The United States already has one.
Commenting on today’s meeting, E3G analyst Byford Tsang told Climate Home: “There is no official announcement that the ‘climate talks suspension’ announced at the light of Pelosi’s trip in August. But both sides appear to have agreed to have senior officials communicate through existing “working groups”, and one of them is the climate one set up at COP26.
He added: “It is a welcome step that the world’s two largest transmitters are talking to each other. But it should be remembered that the working group did not generate any concrete results before its suspension. The success of the pledge must be judged on whether the revived mechanism can get China and the United States to accelerate progress on emissions reductions.
Li Shuo, Greenpeace East Asia analyst tweeted that the meeting “indicates an exit from the bilateral climate suspension and an attempt to prevent geopolitics from polluting climate engagement. This will help ease tensions at COP27. Both sides can talk to each other, now they must also lead” .
Chatham House expert Bernice Lee was less impressed. “These are the two biggest polluters, we are four days from the end of COP27,” she said. “It’s good that they’re slowly getting closer to the status quo – but only coming together when both sides feel like toning down harsh words and rhetoric isn’t enough.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will visit China to continue general talks between the two sides, the US government has announced.