China’s climate envoy urges international cooperation at COP28 to enhance methane control

Xie Zhenhua (left) and John Kerry (right).

4th December 2023 – (Dubai) China’s climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, emphasised the urgent need for international collaboration in enhancing methane control in developing countries during the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) on Saturday. Joining forces with U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, Xie called for global unity and action to address this pressing issue.

The agreement reached between China and the US.S.on reducing methane emissions was hailed as one of the standout achievements of COP28 by Chinese experts. This accord is expected to provide valuable time for the international community to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions effectively.

At COP28 in Dubai, Xie, China’s special envoy for climate change, addressed the summit on the topic of methane and non-carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gases. Prominent figures such as John Kerry and Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, COP28 President and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology of the UAE, were in attendance, alongside other global leaders.

Xie highlighted China’s efforts and successes in controlling methane emissions, citing the implementation of various policies and programs in recent years. Noteworthy initiatives include measures in the energy sector to reduce methane emissions from energy production and encourage methane recovery and reuse. In the agricultural sector, China has focused on promoting the recycling of livestock and poultry waste and implementing zero-growth actions for fertilizers, all of which have played a pivotal role.

Acknowledging the challenges faced by developing countries, including China, in controlling methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases, Xie emphasized the need for long-term efforts, extensive foundational work, and capacity building. He acknowledged that China, as a developing country, faces significant difficulties and risks in this regard. Challenges include unclear data, insufficient statistical accounting and monitoring capabilities, an imperfect regulatory framework, and the urgent need to enhance technical and management capacities.

Recognizing that many developing countries share similar circumstances, Xie stressed the importance of international cooperation to overcome these challenges. He expressed China’s willingness to act and collaborate with global partners, recognizing the need to strengthen capabilities in this area.

In November, the Chinese government unveiled an action plan for methane emissions control. Xie outlined China’s commitment to transforming this plan into tangible actions that continuously strengthen foundational capabilities. He also emphasized the importance of balancing methane control efforts with energy security, food security, and other critical aspects of national well-being.

John Kerry echoed the sentiment, emphasising the necessity for cooperation between China and the U.S. Stressing that no country or business can singularly solve the climate crisis, Kerry highlighted the importance of multilateralism and global cooperation. He underscored the significance of reducing methane emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030, aligning with the global methane pledge to limit warming to below 0.2°C by 2050.

Kerry further emphasised that addressing methane, which is significantly more potent than CO2, is crucial for preserving the 1.5°C benchmark. Experts agree that taking early action on methane is essential to effectively combat climate change.

During COP28, Xie and Kerry aim to develop detailed plans for broader and pragmatic cooperation on reducing methane emissions and other climate change-related issues. This collaboration is seen as a significant achievement of this year’s conference and will provide valuable time for the international community to make substantial progress in reducing greenhouse emissions.

While global carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, tackling methane, with its shorter atmospheric lifetime but higher heat-trapping potential, offers an effective alternative for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Critics have raised concerns about China’s action plan for methane emissions control, suggesting that it lacks specific targets and deadlines. However, experts argue that the plan represents an initial step towards addressing methane emissions. They emphasise the need to first establish a clear roadmap and gather accurate data on methane emissions in China. Strengthening statistical accounting, monitoring, and supervision, as outlined in the action plan, will be crucial moving forward.

China can draw upon its experience of cooperating with the U.S. on methane emissions, as the U.S. initiated efforts to curb methane emissions earlier than China. This knowledge exchange can further contribute to effective methane control measures.