Science

EXPLAINER: On China, US and climate, action, not talk is key

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The last two agreements the world made to battle climate change came only after the United States and China, by far the two biggest carbon polluters, made deals with each other. Now the successful dynamic is in jeopardy with China cutting off climate talks with the U.S. because of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.

Just how much this will sidetrack momentum — especially in the United States where there’s congressional action to cut emissions of heat-trapping gas — depends on how long the rift extends, experts said. But they said there’s hope that climate actions already set in motion in both countries will matter more than unspoken words.

“China’s announcement that it’s suspending talks on climate change is not surprising, but it definitely stings,” said Joanna Lewis, an expert on China, energy and climate at Georgetown University. “I hope this is only a temporary pause.”

The brief notice issued on Friday by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave few details and was largely focused on ceasing military and strategic meetings.

Halting climate talks between the U.S. and China imperils progress at a global climate summit in November, and specifically direct cooperation on thorny technical issues related to reducing methane emissions, said Lewis.

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said Friday, “Suspending cooperation doesn’t punish the United States – it punishes the world, particularly the developing world. The human and financial cost will be catastrophic” if countries can’t set aside differences to address climate change.

CLIMATE ACTION AT HOME

Just because the two nations aren’t talking to each other about climate doesn’t mean they are not acting, experts say.

“What the U.S and China actually have to do to curb emissions is take strong…

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