Australia calls for US-China to keep climate talks ‘ring-fenced’ from Taiwan tensions

Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen has called for China and the United States to resume climate talks despite rising tensions between the countries over the status of Taiwan.

China announced on August 5 that it would suspend the talks, part of a response to US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan that has included firing missiles over the island and holding naval military drills around it.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris BowenCredit:Alex Ellinghausen

Bowen said on Sunday it was better for the world long-term to have the two largest emitters continue talking to each other.

“In all the tensions between China and the United States, the one thing that’s been ring-fenced up until now has been climate discussions,” he told ABC’s Insiders.

“I do hope those talks are resumed and that suspension is lifted because that is a blow. And it would be better if those talks resumed.”

America’s special envoy on climate John Kerry has said the entire world will suffer the consequences if the two largest emitting nations can’t keep up cooperation on the climate front. He labelled China’s decision disappointing and misguided.

China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua, left, talks with UN climate summit president Alok Sharma, and John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate in November 2021. China has now suspended bilateral climate talks with the US.Credit:Alberto Pezzali

Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles reiterated calls for a de-escalation around the Taiwan Strait, saying the “world would breathe a sigh of relief if we could get to that moment” and have a return of “normal, peaceful behaviour”.

But he acknowledged Australia’s relationship with China would continue to face challenges despite a change in tone since the election.

“That’s because while there has been a change of government in Australia, our national interest hasn’t changed,” Marles told Sky News on Sunday.

“We’re not going about things with chest-beating. We are really trying to speak with a considered voice, in a manner which is professional, which is sober and which is diplomatic.

“We want to engage professionally and respectfully but we will absolutely be articulating our national interest and particularly when that differs from the actions of other countries and that includes China.”

The Chinese ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, said on Wednesday that Australia had a chance to reset relations with his country to improve trade and potentially set up a meeting between leaders later this year, but Canberra had to respect China’s claim to Taiwan.

Marles said Australia’s long-held “One China” policy and desire for the status quo to remain in the Taiwan Strait had not changed.

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