Xie Zhenhua told reporters at Cop27 in Egypt that China had “no obligation” to contribute but was open to doing its part. However, a spokesperson from the Chinese delegation later said it would not contribute with cash, Reuters reported.
During the briefing, Mr Xie said China was happy to see “loss and damage” added to the UN climate forum's agenda for the first time and China itself had suffered from recent climate-linked weather events. He pointed to floods and drought this year that killed thousands. “That is a huge loss,” he said.
“China strongly supports claims from developing countries claiming loss and damages.”
Mr Xie added that China was also a developing country.
Speaking in China’s first media briefing on the summit, Mr Xie said he had informal contacts with the US and its climate envoy John Kerry during the summit despite ties being formally frozen since House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August.
He said he and his “friend of 25 years” Mr Kerry “never stopped personal communication and exchanged eight letters”. But he said responsibility lay with the US to come back to the table.
“At this Cop when we both arrived, we decided to maintain communications between the two delegations,” he said.
“Me and Mr Kerry both agreed to make joint efforts to support the Egyptian presidency. [But] the door is closed by them and we are trying to open it.”
The issue of loss and damage is quickly becoming a major issue of the summit in Sharm El Sheikh. The US and other richer countries had long resisted the establishment of such a mechanism in case they would be made liable for huge sums.
Mr Xie said during informal meetings Mr Kerry, he did not raise the issue of China paying loss and damage.
Responding to a question from The National on whether such a facility would be established at the summit, Mr Xie said China did not wish to “prejudge” the talks but would be studying “sustainable solutions”.
“If we can have a fund established at this Cop, China is happy to see that and will support that but it all depends on the negotiations.
“Now the biggest difference lies in that some countries want the fund to be about compensation and say clearly what are the responsibilities, but others are against it and they also have different opinions on the source of funds. China supports the positions of developing countries and hopes to find a good result through negotiations at this Cop.”
Mr Xie separately said the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, was not in town because of a busy domestic schedule and high-level visitors after the Communist Party congress.
“When you have guests at home you cannot just leave,” he said.