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US Climate Envoy Meets Chinese Counterpart on Hottest Ever Day in China

A remote township in China’s western Xinjiang region has set a nationwide temperature record of 52.2C, as the US climate envoy, John Kerry, held meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in Beijing.

The temperature was reached on Sunday at Sanbao township in the Turpan Depression, the China Meteorological Administration said in a statement. It broke a previous record of 50.6C, set in July 2017, the CMA said.

Sanbao lies on the outskirts of the city of Turpan, where authorities have told workers and students to stay at home and ordered special vehicles to spray water on major thoroughfares. Ground surface temperatures reached 80C in parts of Turpan on Sunday, according to the CMA.

Large swaths of Asia, Europe and the US have been sweltering in extreme heatwaves in recent weeks, which scientists say are being exacerbated by the climate crisis.

Methane emissions and China’s coal consumption are expected to be at the top of Kerry’s agenda in his first formal talks with Xie in nearly a year. The pair will probably also discuss preparations for the Cop28 climate summit later this year.

Hot weather and drought have driven power shortages in eastern Sichuan province, where low water levels in hydropower dams have led to power rationing. Because Sichuan usually sends electricity to other parts of China, the impact could spread.

Kerry said he hoped this week’s meetings would show that the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases had renewed their focus on tackling the climate crisis.

“In the next three days we hope we can begin taking some big steps that will send a signal to the world about the serious purpose of China and the United States to address a common risk, threat, challenge to all of humanity, created by humans themselves,” Kerry was quoted saying before the talks.

China is the largest producer of renewable power from solar and wind generation, and Kerry praised Beijing’s “incredible job” building up capacity. The country has promised to hit peak carbon emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060.

It is also the world’s biggest producer and consumer of coal-generated electricity, a major source of emissions. It has vowed to start reducing coal consumption by 2026, although approval of new coal-fired generating capacity has increased since last year, Reuters reported.

China is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global heating, with scarce water resources, a large population and an already serious problem with desertification.

Beijing has said global agreements on reducing greenhouse gases should take more account of historic emissions – an area where countries that industrialised decades or centuries before still outpace China and other fast-growing economies. Otherwise, the climate crisis risks becoming an excuse for hobbling China’s growth, officials have said.

Beijing’s reluctance to reach agreements may also be in part due to uncertainty about the outcome of next year’s US presidential election, and whether there will still be a White House administration interested in change.

Kerry’s trip is part of a flurry of high-level delegations flying to Beijing to try to shore up ties between the two countries. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and the treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, had visited China before him.

China suspended all high-level diplomatic contacts with the US last August, after the then speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan, which Beijing claims should come under its rule.

The disruption included climate talks between the world’s two biggest emitters, even as the climate crisis gathered pace, and despite a long personal connection between Kerry and Xie. The two have met dozens of times across negotiating tables and had a private dinner together on Sunday night.

Source : The Guardian