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  • Title
    Special Envoy on Climate Change
  • Affiliation
    China

In 2014, Chinese diplomat Xie Zhenhua and U.S. then–Secretary of State John Kerry conducted marathon talks that resulted in their countries—then, as now, the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas polluters—mutually committing to reducing carbon emissions. That pact paved the way for most of the world’s other nations to embrace similar goals in the Paris Agreement the following year. So green-energy activists celebrated this February when China reinstated Xie as its chief climate envoy: With Kerry holding a similar role in President Biden’s administration, it looked as if one of the most productive relationships in diplomacy would be reignited.

Xie, six years Kerry’s junior at age 71, has been anything but inactive since Paris. Behind the scenes, he’s been a leader in the effort to develop strategies and economic models to enable China to meet its goal of carbon neutrality as a nation by 2060. And during the Trump presidency, when the U.S. government largely disengaged from climate negotiations, Xie worked with officials in green-leaning states like California and New York to collaborate and share ideas on clean energy projects and other climate-friendly innovations—keeping the dialogue alive even when the broader geopolitical atmosphere was hostile.