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China, US to set up joint climate group — report

March 20, 2021

After reportedly testy meetings in Alaska, the official Xinhua news agency said China and the US will cooperate on tackling climate change. China leads the world in wind energy.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R), joined by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R), speaks while facing Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, and Wang Yi (L), China's Foreign Minister at the opening session of US-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021.
The Alaska talks left the US and China divided on many issuesImage: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Despite media reports that little progress was made during the two-days of dialogue in the Alaskan city of Anchorage, which ended Friday, China's official Xinhua news agency said Beijing and Washington had decided to set up a working group on climate change.

The agency did not provide any details on the initiative, other than saying both China and the United States are committed to enhancing communication and cooperation.

The talks were the first face-to-face meeting between senior US officials and their Chinese counterparts since President Joe Biden took office earlier this year. They opened with tense and extended exchanges over human rights in front of television cameras, before the officials retreated behind closed doors.

How is China addressing climate change?

As the rivalry between the two nations escalates, the climate crisis is seen as one area that might force Beijing and Washington to join forces.

The new Biden administration has promised to elevate climate issues. Meanwhile, China is already working on climate-related initiatives considered to be  much more advanced than the ones in the US.

A wind turbine in southwest China
China is now the world leader in installed wind energyImage: Getty Images/AFP/L. Jin

Last year, China pledged to reach climate neutrality by 2060. This will require $6.4 trillion (€5.4 trillion) of investment in new power generating capacity, consultancy Wood Mackenzie said Thursday.

The switch could lead to a tectonic shift in manufacturing and commodity imports while boosting the nation's energy security.

Last year, China become the world's dominant power when it comes to wind energy after record installations.

According to a report released by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), a Belgium-based international trade association, China broke the world record for most wind power capacity installed in a single year in 2020, with 52 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity — doubling the country's annual installations compared to the previous year.

"The incredible and rapid growth of wind power in the region has been led by China, which now has more wind power capacity than Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America combined,” Feng Zhao, head of market intelligence and strategy at the GWEC, was quoted by the London-based Financial Times newspaper .

What else was discussed at the Alaska summit?

The delegations of China and the US also talked about  economy and trade, law enforcement, culture and people-to-people interactions, cyber-security, the Iranian nuclear issue, Afghanistan, and Myanmar, Chinese officials said.

Additionally, negotiators discussed reciprocal arrangements for the COVID-19 vaccination of each side's diplomats and consular officials.

The US also reiterated its adherence to the one-China policy on the Taiwan question, according to the Chinese delegation.

mb/dj (AP, Reuters)