The Biden administration called on China on Saturday to do more to help developing countries fight climate change and called on the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases to support international climate finance funds, which it has so far refused to support.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen delivered the message during her second day of meetings in Beijing, where she seeks to cultivate areas of cooperation between the United States and China. While China has expressed support for programs to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change, it has resisted paying into such funds, arguing that it is also a developing nation.
Mrs. Yellen said China, like the United States, has a responsibility to be a leader in climate finance.
“Climate finance should be targeted effectively and efficiently,” said Ms. Yellen during a meeting with a group of Chinese and international sustainable finance experts on Saturday morning. “I think that if China were to support existing multilateral climate institutions like the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Investment Funds together with us and other donor governments, we could have a greater impact than we do today.”
The US and China both face pressure from developing countries to mobilize more money for such countries struggling to close coal plants, develop renewable energy or cope with the effects of climate change by building things like sea walls, improving drainage or developing early. warning systems for floods and cyclones.
Under President Barack Obama, the US pledged $3 billion over four years to the Green Climate Fund, a UN-led program aimed at helping poor countries. So far, it has delivered $2 billion of that promise. Republicans have repeatedly sought to block taxpayer spending on the fund and other climate finance, but President Biden has used discretionary spending in the State Department to fulfill part of the American pledge.
China pledged $3.1 billion, and it has delivered about 10 percent of that, according to surveys. It also gives money to developing countries through what its leaders call “South-South” cooperation. This is because under the UN climate body, China is still considered a developing country and not an industrialized nation, even though China now has a far larger manufacturing sector than any other country. It has long resisted pressure to contribute to the same climate funds as rich nations, arguing that advanced economies like the US have been polluting far longer and have more responsibility to help tackle climate change.
“It is not China’s obligation to provide financial support” under UN climate rules, Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy, said in an interview last year after the creation of a new multilateral fund to help poor countries deal with economic losses from climate disasters. .
John Morton, a former climate adviser to the Treasury Department under the Biden administration, said any meaningful contribution from China could help the US make the case to members of Congress and others to approve climate finance. He also said there may be other ways the two superpowers can work together to help developing countries cut coal consumption or curb methane, a potent greenhouse gas that leaks from oil and gas wells.
“It would have a huge consequence for the world,” he said. “Any time there is an opportunity to create a closer relationship with China in the climate area, it is an opportunity that should be taken up immediately.”
The US and China are co-chairs of the Sustainable Finance Working Group in the Group of 20, which gives the two countries an opportunity to work more closely together on global climate issues.
Mrs. Yellen is the second member of the Biden administration’s cabinet to travel to China in recent weeks; Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was there in June. Later in July, John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, will visit to restart global warming talks between the world’s two biggest polluters.
In addition, President Biden will participate in a forum in London on Tuesday aimed at finding ways to mobilize climate finance, particularly “to bring private finance off the sidelines, for clean energy deployment and adaptation in developing countries,” Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser said Friday.
During her four-day trip to China, Ms. Yellen sought to reopen the channels of communication with her counterparts in Beijing after years of growing mistrust that has been exacerbated by trade wars and export controls for sensitive technology. At meetings this week, Ms. Yellen on China’s treatment of foreign companies, but also made the case that more frequent talks between top officials would help prevent political misunderstandings from festering.
The finance minister also discussed climate finance at a meeting with Premier Li Qiang on Friday in Beijing. On Saturday afternoon, she is scheduled to meet with Vice Premier He Lifeng, her counterpart who oversees China’s economy.
In the past two years, China has built more coal-fired power plants and expanded coal mines, raising concerns in Washington.
Chinese officials have said they plan to phase out carbon emissions completely by 2060, starting no later than 2030. And China has led the world in installing solar power and exporting solar panels to other countries.
China is doubling coal consumption, in part for national security reasons — it doesn’t want to rely more on imported oil and natural gas, which could be cut off in a crisis.
China’s energy experts say the new coal-fired power plants will be used primarily during peak electricity demand, not 24/7. But critics say that once the plants are built, they will inevitably harm the climate in the long term.