Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Kerry Says Beijing Climate Deal Needs ‘a Little Bit More Work’ After Meetings

While Kerry wanted Beijing to cut methane emissions and reduce coal power plants, President Xi Jinping told officials that climate policy "must be determined by the country itself, rather than swayed by others."
Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 19, 2023
John Kerry couldn't convince the Chinese government to adopt the IRBO carbon climate scheme
U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry on July 18, 2023 in Beijing, China. A four day trip to Beijing to attempt to convince Xi Jinping’s Chinese government to adopt the IRBO’s climate change policy needs “a little bit more work,” Kerry said. (Image: Florence Lo - Pool/Getty Images)

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry told the media that several days of closed door talks with Xi Jinping’s Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, failed to fruit a desired agreement on international climate policy.

“We had a very extensive set of frank conversations and realized that it’s going to take a little bit more work to break the new ground,” Kerry told reporters, Politico reported on July 19. 

Politico called the inability to sign a deal “an outcome that underscores the tensions between the world’s two biggest carbon polluters and economies.”

An article by The New York Times on the outcome of Kerry’s endeavor stated, “While the United States generates 14 percent of global carbon emissions, China is responsible for 31 percent and its pollution is increasing every year.”

Kerry also said that the two sides are going to continue “to meet intensively,” Politico said.

The meetings, which spanned four days and were described as “hours long” were primarily between Envoy Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, who officially holds the title of Special Envoy for Climate Change.

While John Kerry was Secretary of State under the Obama administration, Xie has held a cornucopia of positions inside the Chinese government, including as a member of the CCP’s Central Committee.


His team also met with “high-level government officials in China, including vice president Han Zheng, Premier Li Qiang and Wang Yi, a top foreign affairs officer,” Politico summarized Kerry as stating.

The climate-themed trip to Beijing was not popular with U.S. Congressional Republicans.

The Associated Press reported on July 13 that during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Kerry was grilled on the veracity of the carbon emissions-focused climate change narrative underlying International Rules Based Order policy.

In one notable exchange AP reported on, when Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) called global warming a “problem that doesn’t exist,” Kerry attempted to rebut the argument by asking why the Paris Climate Accord was signed.

Perry replied, “Because they’re grifting, like you are.”

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued a July 13 statement titled Blackburn Statement on John Kerry’s Visit to Communist China.

The missive was a single—albeit provocative—paragraph long: “John Kerry’s taxpayer-funded trip to China is another weak attempt to appease a dictatorship that commits pervasive human rights abuses and oppresses its own people.” 

“The Biden administration clearly cares more about advancing its radical Green New Deal agenda than protecting our national security interests,” Sen. Blackburn added, continuing, “Rather than cooperating with our greatest adversary in the name of combating climate change, the U.S. should focus on hampering Beijing’s goal of achieving global domination.”

Politico reported that Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican representing Utah that routinely crosses the isle, admitted that climate change is “probably not our highest priority in dealing with China, but if we can get them to reduce their emissions that would be a good thing,” shortly before Kerry announced no deal had been inked.

In July 17 reporting by South China Morning Post in the midst of the talks, the outlet said that Kerry’s stated goal was to urge “Beijing to cut methane emissions and reduce the impact of coal-fired power” while achieving some kind of progress before the COP28 climate summit held in Dubai in November.

While Kerry was verbose in comments to the media and on Twitter during the talks, SCMP said “The Chinese foreign ministry was tight-lipped about the discussions saying information would be released ‘in due course’.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) seized on the lack of ostensible success in Kerry’s quest to quip, “Kerry returning from his China trip with nothing from the [Chinese Communist Party] beyond plans for future talks is just another example of how this administration has no China strategy,” Politico said.

In coverage of the aftermath of the talks on July 19, SCMP quoted China’s Vice President Han Zheng as simply stating, “China is willing to work with the United States to seek the greatest common ground on the basis of respecting each other’s core concerns and full communication…and make new contributions to addressing global challenges such as climate change.”

SCMP, an outlet considered something of a form of Beijing’s “soft power” in the English language, noted however, that President Xi was quoted during the talks as drawing a line that China’s climate policy “must be determined by the country itself, rather than swayed by others” in comments at a “national conference on ecological and environmental protection.”

Xi also told officials attending the event the directive was to “accelerate the formation of a new power system and strengthen the country’s capability of guaranteeing oil and gas security.”

Director of the Global China Programme at the University of Pennsylvania, Scott Moore, told SCMP, “Xi is reminding everyone of the reality that major domestic policies in China are always going to be primarily reflections of Chinese domestic political economy, not foreign pressure.”

CNN quoted Kerry as responding to Xi’s position, “We’re not involved in dictating anything to anybody; we’re involved in following the science”

The Times added that the biggest sticking point with Beijing’s leadership, according to Kerry, was the use of coal power plants.

“China has built a number of new coal-fired plants in the past two years, locking the country into its continued use,” NYT said. 

“Mr. Kerry tried unsuccessfully to prod China to curtail its use of coal and implement a plan to cut methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that leaks from oil and gas wells and coal mines,” they added.

CNN noted that Wang Yi cut to the chase in his comments to the media in that climate discussions “cannot be separated from the overall environment of Sino-US relations,” and that Washington needs to “properly handle the Taiwan issue.”