Kerry Warns Rising US-China Tensions Hurting Climate Talk

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said tensions between the U.S. and China are hurting climate talks

It comes as China warned of the path to “confrontation and conflict” with the U.S.

The U.S. and China are on a path towards “conflict and confrontation” unless the U.S. changes course, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned.

Tensions between China and the U.S. spiked in 2022. The tensions furthered last month after a high-altitude surveillance balloon sent by the Chinese government was discovered flying over the U.S.

Kerry said his work with China has stalled amid wider tensions between the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters.

“Regrettably, in the last year … what was not supposed to happen has happened, which is the climate issue has gotten mixed up into all the other tensions that exist between our countries,” Kerry said. 

“And so they’ve kind of pulled back a little bit, expressing the feeling that all we’re doing is bashing them and bashing them,” he said.

It matters because it remains impossible for the world to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals for staving off the worst of global warming without more aggressive steps by China. 

China is the biggest emitter in the world. 

The two countries made a surprise joint declaration on climate ambition in late 2021. Now that relationship continues to deteriorate. 

President Biden has repeatedly claimed that while the U.S. seeks to compete with China it does not wish for conflict.

Qin threw cold water on the U.S. position, claiming that the U.S. “so-called competition” amounted to “total containment and suppression.”

“If the U.S. side does not hit the brakes but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing or a crash and there will be conflict and confrontation,” Qin said. 

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby pushed back on Qin’s assessment, saying that “nothing” about the administration’s approach to U.S.-China relations “should lead anybody to think that we want conflict.”

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