China’s recently retired top climate change official looks like he will have a prominent role at upcoming UN talks, providing important continuity in a process where knowledge, expertise and personal relationships are judged to be crucial.
A post on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s powerful planning ministry, referred to the official as China’s special representative for climate change issues and pictured him in a meeting with Swedish negotiators.
Under Chinese civil service rules, senior ministry officials are required to take retirement when they turn 65, but Xie’s position and experience means the Chinese government has apparently been very keen to keep him on board its climate negotiations team.
Since 2007 Xie has been China’s face at UN climate talks and his replacement, Zhang Yong, is from a food safety background with little experience in negotiations on cutting carbon.
The apparent retirement of Xie – and subsequent appointment as special representative – appears to explain why China hasn’t yet submitted its national climate plan to the UN.
The world’s largest emitting country was initially expected to publish its contribution to climate talks by the end of the last month, in line with a notional UN deadline, but sources in Beijing say China’s plan won’t emerge until June at the earliest.