Zhao Yingmin, Copyright MEE.
For more than ten years, Xie Zhenhua headed the Chinese delegation in international climate negotiations, making him China’s leading climate negotiator and one of the world’s longest-serving climate diplomats. Whilst vigorously defending China’s right to development in earlier negotiations, Xie Zhenhua later became one of the key architects of the Paris Agreement and promoted low-carbon development as a national strategy within China.
The COP25 summit in Madrid in December 2019 saw Zhao Yingmin serving in Xie Zhenhua’s place for the first time. Zhao Yingmin – who worked as an aide to Xie Zhenhua in the 1990s – is a vice minister of ecology and environment with extensive experience in tackling pollution. Under his leadership, several key reforms were introduced in the ministries for environmental standards and pollution prevention, respectively.
There is a wide array of contentious issues to be decided on during the next UNFCCC summits, from establishing a new international market for carbon permits to paying for climate change loss and damage. At the same time, China’s domestic climate policy is likely to come under increased scrutiny as global temperatures are quickly rising, but international climate negotiations find themselves largely leaderless. The actions of both China at large and Zhao Yingmin himself will therefore be critical to sustaining global commitments to climate change in the year ahead.