The visit to China by John Kerry, the United States' special presidential envoy for climate, is expected to focus on enhancing engagement on climate and clean energy issues between the two countries, while possibly addressing how they can coordinate for the success of the upcoming COP28 United Nations climate change conference, experts said.
Kerry arrived in Beijing on Sunday and is scheduled to leave on Wednesday.
China suspended climate talks with the U.S. following the visit by Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, to the Taiwan region in August last year.
Kerry previously held discussions with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua on the sidelines of COP27 in Egypt in November. The two envoys also talked via video link in early January, discussing joint efforts to address global climate in a multilateral manner.
Joanna Lewis, director of the Science, Technology and International Affairs Program at Georgetown University in Washington, said, "As this is the first face-to-face meeting in several months, I expect this trip to be focused on discussing how to restart engagement on climate and clean energy both at the high level and at the working level."
Lewis said she is looking forward to witnessing discussions between the two nations for COP28, formally known as the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is scheduled to be held in the United Arab Emirates later this year.
"As we have seen in the past, if the U.S. and China are not able to discuss key issues on the table at COP28 in advance of the meeting, it could lead to challenges in achieving successful outcomes," she said.
It is important that both sides discuss some of the issues in advance and try to find ways to work together to assemble support from other countries on key issues such as the Global Stocktake, loss and damage, and climate finance, she added.
Wang Yi, deputy director of China's national expert committee on climate change, said COP28 is a key topic for the two sides to discuss, though it's also important for them to hold talks on how to continue the implementation of the China-U.S. Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s, which was reached in 2021 at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Through bilateral efforts, China and the U.S. laid the foundations for international support for the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, which was adopted by 196 parties in 2015.
The world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases should make full of this legacy to ensure a successful COP28, Wang said.
COP28 has an important role to play in the Global Stocktake process of assessing every country's progress toward reaching its existing 2030 targets, according to Thom Woodroofe, a senior fellow and founding director of the Asia Society Policy Institute's Climate Hub.
Woodroofe, who is also a former climate diplomat, said that a shift to "tackling the climate crisis as a stand-alone issue" in the bilateral relationship would be the "holy grail" of Kerry's visit, but that is unlikely.
"While this is unlikely, a good outcome would be an agreement by both sides to return to where they got to at the end of 2021 at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow," he said in an email.
Dimitri de Boer, regional director of programs for Asia at environmental law organization ClientEarth, said he hopes to see China and the U.S. prioritize cooperation on accelerating global energy transition to help tackle the global climate crisis.
"We're now seeing the effects of climate change in countries around the world, and we urgently want to see the world's largest economies cooperate to address it," he emphasized.
"Poor U.S.-China relations have been the key factor holding this back, but we've recently seen some hopeful signals. The top priority should be for both sides to coordinate on accelerating the global energy transition," he added.