Xie Zhenhua, China s special envoy for climate, meets with members of the media at the COP27 U.N. Climate Summit, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. AP
The senior officials met during the UN's COP27 conference in Egypt after US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed at a G20 summit in Indonesia earlier this week to resume collaboration on climate change.
Cooperation between the superpowers is key in the fight against global warming and has led to breakthroughs at past UN climate conferences, notably the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.
Xie described his talks with Kerry in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh as "candid, friendly, positive" and "overall very constructive".
"We have agreed that after this COP we will continue formal conversations, including face-to-face meetings," he told reporters, recalling that he has known Kerry for more than two decades.
But he also highlighted lingering differences with Western nations, rejecting the idea that China should no longer be considered a developing country, though it is now the world's second-biggest economy.
That distinction in status is key: under the terms of a bedrock 1992 UN climate treaty, developed countries are supposed to financially help developing nations in their energy transitions and efforts to build resilience against climate impacts.
The Paris Agreement, Xie said, also "made it very clear that the responsibility to provide finance... lies with developed countries".
The issue was at the heart of a contentious debate at COP27 on establishing a "loss and damage" fund to compensate poorer countries already devastated by the fallout from global warming.
Flooding in Pakistan this year, for example, displaced millions and caused $30 billion in damage and economic loss, according to the World Bank.
The European Union argued that China and other developing nations such as Saudi Arabia that have grown wealthier should be among the financial contributors.
The EU also insisted that the loss and damage fund be used to assist the most "vulnerable" countries -- meaning it could exclude China as a recipient of aid.
"I hope that it could be provided to the fragile countries first. But the recipients should be developing countries," Xie said. "But provide it first to those who need it the most."
Rich and developing countries were close to an agreement on the issue on Saturday.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online