U.S.-China diplomatic tension casts doubt over global climate progress

China‘s decision to halt bilateral talks on climate change with the United States has cast a cloud of doubt over whether the world can rally enough ambition to address global warming in time to avert its worst impacts.

Tackling climate change has been a key area of cooperation between the two superpowers and two biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more: China suspends dialogue with U.S., sanctions Pelosi over Taiwan visit

But China has suspended talks on the issue less than 100 days before the next landmark international climate summit, COP27, as part of its escalating retaliation over U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

“No country should withhold progress on existential transnational issues because of bilateral differences,” said John Kerry, the former U.S. Secretary of State, who is currently the Biden administration’s top climate diplomat.

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“Suspending cooperation doesn’t punish the United States – it punishes the world, particularly the developing world,” he said.

Over the last few years, climate change has remained an open avenue for cooperation between the United States and China even as tensions have escalated on other issues like human rights, forced labor, Hong Kong and Taiwan sovereignty, and trade.

U.S. and Chinese officials had started to ramp up engagement on climate issues in the lead-up to the COP27 United Nations climate summit, which takes place in Egypt in November.

Pelosi’s brief visit this week to self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, infuriated Beijing and triggered Chinese military drills on an unprecedented scale in the seas and air around the island.

Click to play video: 'China fires ballistic missiles near Taiwan in large military drills after Pelosi’s visit' China fires ballistic missiles near Taiwan in large military drills after Pelosi’s visit

China fires ballistic missiles near Taiwan in large military drills after Pelosi’s visit

Previous bilateral engagement on climate change between the two countries helped pave the way for the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, and reignited flailing international climate negotiation in Glasgow in 2021.

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With the pivotal climate summit on the horizon and countries backsliding on the emission reduction pledges they made in China conducts live fire ballistic missile drills off Taiwan’s coast in response to Pelosi visit

China conducts live fire ballistic missile drills off Taiwan’s coast in response to Pelosi visit

“This has always been an up-and-down relationship,” said Alden Meyer, a senior associate of consultancy E3G. “I think the question here is this a short term tactical move by Beijing to try to get Washington’s attention or is this part of bigger, longer term strategic adjustment by China?”

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(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Alistair Bell)

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