Yellen Urges China to Step Up Climate Finance Investments
transcript Climate change is on the top of the list of global challenges, and the United States and China must work together to address this existential threat. I believe that continued U.S.-China cooperation on climate finance is critical. As the worlds two largest emitters of greenhouse gases and the largest investors in renewable energy, we have both a joint responsibility and ability to lead the way. Its also critical that we encourage economywide transitions toward net zero, which needs to include the private sector. and Alan Rappeport, who covers the Treasury Department, reported from Beijing. Lisa Friedman, who covers federal climate change policy, reported from Washington. Keith Bradsher is Beijing bureau chief. The Biden administration called on China on Saturday to do more to help developing countries combat climate change, urging the worlds largest emitter of greenhouse gases to back international climate finance funds that it has so far declined to support. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen delivered the message during her second day of meetings in Beijing, where she is seeking to cultivate areas of cooperation between the United States and China. While China has expressed support for programs to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change, it has been selective in choosing which funds to support, arguing that it is also a developing nation. Ms. Yellen said that China and the United States share a common interest on climate change and could make a more significant impact if the nations worked together. I believe that if China were to support existing multilateral climate institutions like the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Investment Funds alongside us and other donor governments, we could have a greater impact than we do today, Ms. Yellen said at a meeting with a group of Chinese and international sustainable finance experts on Saturday morning. Ms. Yellen also raised climate finance and the debt difficulties of developing countries during a meeting on Saturday afternoon with , her counterpart who oversees Chinas economy. In remarks at the beginning of that meeting, Ms. Yellen noted that the United States and China face important global challenges, such as debt distress in emerging markets and developing countries and climate change, where we have a duty to both our own countries and to other countries to cooperate. Ms. Yellen and Mr. He met in a conference room and then had dinner together for a total of nearly seven hours. It was a marathon session nearly rivaling the seven and a half hours that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Qin Gang of China spent in a meeting followed by dinner three weeks ago in Beijing, as the Biden administration tries to forge a deeper level of communication with the Chinese government. Mr. He has seldom met with foreign officials or business executives in recent years, and many of his personal views on policy are a mystery, prompting a strong desire by American officials to establish more communication with him. The Treasury Department, in a statement following the meeting, described the conversation as candid, constructive and comprehensive. While Ms. Yellen raised issues of concern, she also discussed the administrations approach to seeking a healthy economic competition with China, with a level playing field for American workers and businesses. Secretary Yellen also conveyed that even when the United States and China have disagreements, it is vital that the two countries find ways to work together on issues of shared and global concern, including debt distress in low-income and emerging economies and climate finance, the statement said. The United States and China are both facing pressure from developing countries to mobilize more money for developing countries that are struggling to shut down coal plants, develop renewable energy, or cope with the consequences of climate change by building sea walls, improving drainage or developing early warning systems for floods and cyclones. Under President Barack Obama, the United States pledged $3 billion over four years to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations-led program aimed at helping poor countries. So far it has delivered $2 billion of that pledge. Republicans have sought several times to block taxpayer spending for the fund and other climate finance, but President Biden has used discretionary spending within the State Department to fulfill part of the U.S. pledge. China pledged $3.1 billion, and it has delivered about 10 percent of that, according to studies. It also gives money to developing nations through what its leaders call South-South cooperation. Thats because under the United Nations climate body, China is still considered a developing country and not an industrialized nation, although China now has a far larger manufacturing sector than any other country. It has long resisted pressure to contribute to the same climate funds as wealthy nations. Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a research group in Beijing, said that China was willing to help developing countries cope with climate change and manage the transition to a warmer world. But harm to developing countries is already being caused by accumulated emissions released largely by industrialized countries, and it is those countries that should bear most of the responsibility, he said. The industrialized countries need to fulfill their obligations that have long been neglected, Mr. Ma said. Mr. Ma was echoing the Chinese governments position. It is not the obligation of China to provide financial support under the U.N. climate rules, Xie Zhenhua, Chinas climate envoy, said after the creation of a new multilateral fund to help poor countries address economic losses from climate disasters. John Morton, a former climate counselor for the Treasury Department under the Biden administration, said any meaningful contribution by China could help the United States make the case to members of Congress and others to approve climate finance. He also said there may be other ways the two superpowers could work together to help developing nations slash coal use or curb methane, a potent greenhouse gas that leaks from oil and gas wells. That would be hugely consequential for the world, he said. Any time theres an opportunity to forge a closer relationship with China on climate, it is an opportunity that should be taken up immediately. The U.S. and China are joint leaders of the Sustainable Finance Working Group at the Group of 20, providing the two countries an opportunity to work more closely on global climate matters. Ms. Yellen is the second Biden administration cabinet member to travel to China in recent weeks; was there last month. Later in July, to restart global warming negotiations between the worlds two largest polluters. Additionally, President Biden will attend a forum in London on Tuesday aimed at finding ways of mobilizing climate finance, in particular bringing private finance off the sidelines, for clean energy deployment and adaptation in developing countries, Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said on Friday. During her four-day trip to China, Ms. Yellen has been looking to reopen the channels of communication with her counterparts in Beijing after years of growing distrust that have been amplified by trade wars and export controls for sensitive technology. In meetings this week, Ms. Yellen criticized Chinas treatment of foreign businesses but also made the case that more frequent conversations between top officials would help prevent policy misunderstandings from festering. While Ms. Yellen portrayed climate finance as an area where the two countries could cooperate, Washington has become concerned about Chinas reliance on fossil fuels. In the past two years, China has been building more coal-fired power plants and expanding coal mines. Chinese officials have said they plan to phase out carbon emissions , starting no later than 2030. And China has led the world in installing solar power, and in exporting solar panels to other countries. China is doubling down on coal consumption partly for national security reasons it does not want to rely more heavily on imported oil and natural gas, which might be cut off during a crisis. Chinas power experts say that the new coal-fired power plants will be used mainly during peaks in electricity demand, not around the clock. But critics say that once built, the plants will inevitably damage the climate over the long term. is an economic policy reporter, based in Washington. He covers the Treasury Department and writes about taxes, trade and fiscal matters. He previously worked for The Financial Times and The Economist. reports on federal climate and environmental policy from Washington. She has broken multiple stories about the Trump administrations efforts to repeal climate change regulations and limit the use of science in policymaking. is the Beijing bureau chief for The Times. He previously served as bureau chief in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Detroit and as a Washington correspondent. He has lived and reported in mainland China through the pandemic.