China's veteran climate envoy Xie to step down in December - govt source
China's veteran climate envoy Xie to step down in December - govt source
China's veteran climate envoy Xie to step down in December - govt source
by DZRH News03 November 2023
FILE PHOTO: China's chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua attends the COP27 climate summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 19, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo

By Muyu Xu and David Stanway

(Reuters) - China's veteran climate change envoy, Xie Zhenhua, is set to retire in December at the end of this year's COP28 climate talks in Dubai, a government official familiar with the situation confirmed on Wednesday.

Xie, who turns 74 this month, will be replaced by Liu Zhenmin, a former Chinese vice-foreign minister and United Nations Under-Secretary General, according to the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Born in Tianjin in 1949, Xie served as China's top environmental official from 1999 to 2005, when he was forced to step down after a catastrophic benzine explosion left 5 million people without water supplies.


He first represented China in global climate negotiations in 2007 after his appointment as vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's state planning agency. He led China's delegation during ill-fated and sometimes ill-tempered climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Experts say his friendly relationship with U.S. counterpart Todd Stern was vital in achieving consensus between the world's top two greenhouse gas emitters and helped get the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement over the line.

"The role of individuals matters a great deal in climate diplomacy," said Li Shuo, senior adviser at Greenpeace in Beijing.

"Over his long tenure as China's chief negotiator, Xie has demonstrated that it is possible to bridge the differences between China and the West," he added.


Climate talks between Washington and Beijing broke down during the presidency of Donald Trump, and Xie quit as envoy a year later. He remained involved in building climate ties with the United States, helping set up the California-China Climate Institute with then governor Jerry Brown.

He returned as special envoy in 2021 after the election of President Joe Biden brought the United States back into the Paris Agreement, but his friendship with Stern's replacement, John Kerry, has not been enough to overcome rising geopolitical tensions between the countries.

China has repeatedly told the United States that climate change is not a diplomatic "oasis" that could be separated from broader disputes between the two sides, including U.S. tariffs and sanctions on Chinese-produced solar panels.

Formal talks resumed between Xie and Kerry in Beijing in July this year and the two are set to meet again this week ahead of an APEC summit in San Francisco.


(Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway in Singapore, Editing by William Maclean)

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