SHANGHAI, April 14, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – US climate envoy John Kerry was set to arrive in China on Wednesday for what Beijing said would be a four-day trip, as the two countries seek cooperation over the environment despite acrimony on other fronts.
In the first trip to China by a Biden administration official, the former secretary of state will visit Shanghai before travelling onto the South Korean capital Seoul.
His trip comes in preparation for President Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit next week, to which the US leader has invited both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Beijing, which has so far not committed to Xi’s presence at the summit, said Kerry would arrive on Wednesday and stay until Saturday “at the invitation of China.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that during the trip Kerry will meet with China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and “exchange views on Sino-US cooperation on climate change”, giving no other details.
Kerry’s trip comes despite a testy initial meeting last month in Alaska between top Biden officials and their Chinese counterparts.
The two sides clashed over accusations that China is violating promises of freedoms to Hong Kong and carrying out genocide against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Washington is hoping to find areas of common ground despite the high political tensions.
Kerry had told CNN that although Washington and Beijing had “big disagreements… climate has to stand alone.”
Biden has made climate a top priority, turning the page from his predecessor Donald Trump, who was closely aligned with the fossil fuel industry.
The US president has rejoined the 2015 Paris accord, which Kerry negotiated as secretary of state and committed nations to take action to keep temperature rises at no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
With the world badly off track to meeting the goal, Biden hopes that next week’s virtual summit will result in stronger pledges in advance of UN-led climate talks in Glasgow at the end of the year.
Kerry — who has already travelled on his climate push to European allies, India, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates — noted that he worked closely with China on the Paris accord.
“We hope that China will come to the table and lead. President Xi has talked about leadership, about China’s role in this. We want to work with China in doing this,” Kerry said in an earlier interview with India Today.
No global solution is likely without both the US and China, the world’s top two economies which together account for nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.
China alone produces almost 30 percent of carbon emissions, far more than any country, after decades of rapid industrialization.
But President Xi has promised that China’s emissions will peak by 2030, as part of a major push to clean up the environment.
Biden is also hoping to carry out far-reaching efforts to transform the US economy toward green energy, and has identified climate as among narrow areas in which the US will seek to work with China.