China confirms Xie Zhenhua appointed as new special climate envoy

FILE PHOTO - Xie Zhenhua, China's special representative for Climate Change Affair, speaks during a press conference in Beijing, China November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File Picture

BEIJING (Reuters) - Xie Zhenhua, who served as China’s chief negotiator during key climate meetings in Copenhagen and Paris, has been appointed the country’s new special climate envoy, the environment ministry confirmed on Thursday.

The move comes as Beijing attempts to restore climate diplomacy with the United States after a four-year hiatus during the administration of Donald Trump.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment said the appointment of the veteran official reflects China’s commitment to strengthen communication with all sides when it comes to climate change.

Xie headed China’s climate delegation from 2007 to 2018. His long-standing relationship with his U.S. counterpart Todd Stern is believed to have helped push the Paris accord over the line in late 2015.

Trump declined to replace Stern after becoming President in 2017, and began the process of withdrawing the United States from the Paris agreement later that year.

Washington has now re-entered the Paris agreement under President Joe Biden, and former Secretary of State John Kerry has been appointed the country’s special climate envoy.

Xie’s reappointment has been an open secret since the start of February, with Kerry telling Reuters that Xie was a “leader” and a “capable advocate” for China.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Ana Nicolaci da Costa