Xie Zhenhua: China’s top climate negotiator steps down

(Eco Business, 12 Dec 2019) What is the legacy of a key architect of the Paris Agreement and one of the world’s longest-serving climate diplomats?

As world leaders arrive in Madrid for a second week of climate talks, missing among the familiar faces will be Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate negotiator for over a decade. In his place, Zhao Yingmin, vice minister of ecology and environment, will head the Chinese delegation.

There’s unlikely to be an official announcement but multiple sources have told China Dialogue that Xie has left his position as the country’s special representative on climate change. Xie has steered China’s climate diplomacy since 2007, and has been critical to forging agreement on international climate action to avoid dangerous global warming.

China has become the world’s largest annual emitter of greenhouse gases over the past decade. Yet in that time the country has also shifted from stubbornly defending its right to uncontrolled emission growth to actively embarking on a low-carbon path. That transformation has become a national strategy and Xie Zhenhua’s personal role as a facilitator has been indispensable according to former colleagues, fellow negotiators and civil society representatives.

‘The right to development’

Xie Zhenhua became vice chair of China’s top economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in 2007. The NDRC was also in charge of climate policy until these powers were moved to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) in 2018 as part of wide-ranging ministerial changes.

Xie is known as a candid, tough negotiator in international climate talks. At the Durban climate summit in 2011, he repeatedly banged a table over what he believed were hypocritical demands by rich countries to get China to accept binding emission reduction targets. The moment was widely broadcast on Chinese television.

External link

Eco Business, 12 Dec 2019: Xie Zhenhua: China’s top climate negotiator steps down