China would be willing to support a mechanism for compensating poorer countries for losses and damage caused by climate change, its climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said Wednesday at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, but China later said that would not involve contributing cash.
Xie said China had no obligation to participate, but stressed his solidarity with those calling for more action from wealthy nations on the issue, and outlined the damage China had suffered from climate-linked weather extremes.
"We strongly support the claims from developing countries, especially the most vulnerable countries, for claiming loss and damage compensation because China is also a developing country and we also suffered a lot from extreme weather events," Xie said, speaking through a translator.
"It is not the obligation of China but we are willing to make our contribution and make our effort."
A spokesperson from the Chinese delegation later said that China would not contribute financially. A Reuters translation of Xie's original remarks showed he did not specify that China would contribute financially, but offered to "cooperate" with developing countries.
China is designated by the World Trade Organization as a developing country, despite having the world's second-largest economy.
Last month, United States special envoy John Kerry told reporters China should contribute its own funds to loss and damage, "especially if they think they're going to continue to go on to the next 30 years with increasing their emissions," Politico reported.
Xie said that Kerry, "his friend for 25 years", had not raised this issue with him during informal talks at the climate conference this week. He added that China already contributed billions of yuan to developing countries to help with their mitigation efforts.
White House adviser John Podesta told reporters in Egypt that China should include its methane reduction plans – which currently sit outside its contribution toward the 2015 Paris accord to prevent disastrous climate change – in its package of formal climate pledges.
"I think that would be a good thing for the system and the integrity of the Paris agreement," Podesta said.
After US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan this August, China said it would halt all dialogue with Washington on climate, despite unveiling a pact with the United States at COP26 in Glasgow last year to cooperate on climate change.
Speaking at a separate event on Wednesday, Kerry said cooperation with China was key to keeping the rise in global temperatures capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius and reiterated the need to work with Beijing on reducing methane emissions.
But he said relations with China on climate were not yet working properly again and that a "major negotiating session" ahead of COP27 was called off due to Pelosi's visit.
Xie on Wednesday said that visit had "hurt Chinese people's feelings", but noted that informal discussions and personal correspondence with US delegates continued.
"The door is absolutely closed by (the United States)," he said. "It is we, China, who are trying to open it."
Da Wei, a China-US relations expert at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event on Wednesday that the two sides should look to step up senior official dialogues if Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden meet on the sidelines of the upcoming Group of 20 nations summit in Indonesia.
"For instance, dialogue over climate change - I think that would be a victory," Da said.
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