Kerry to talk climate on first trip by Biden official to China

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, seen in March 2021, will be the first official from President Joe Biden's administration to visit China
US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, seen in March 2021, will be the first official from President Joe Biden's administration to visit China Ludovic MARIN AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

US climate envoy John Kerry will visit China this week in the first trip there by the Biden administration, which says it will find areas of cooperation with Beijing despite soaring tensions on multiple fronts.

The former secretary of state will visit Shanghai as well as the South Korean capital Seoul on a trip starting Wednesday, the State Department confirmed.

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.

With global temperatures and natural disasters on the rise, Biden has made climate a top priority, turning the page from his predecessor Donald Trump, who was closely aligned with the fossil fuel industry.

Kerry, who has already traveled on his climate push to European allies, India, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates, noted that he worked closely with China as he negotiated the 2015 Paris climate accord -- which Biden has rejoined after Trump pulled the United States out of it.

"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 interview with India Today.

"What President Biden has said is, we will have our differences on some issues. We clearly do," he said.

"But that doesn't mean we should ignore the crisis before all of us which requires all of us to respond and that's the climate crisis."

No global solution is likely without both the United States 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 Xi has promised that China's emissions will peak by 2030, 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, a key emphasis of his $2 trillion infrastructure package proposed to Congress.

Biden has identified climate as well as global health as among narrow areas in which the United States will seek to work with China.

Kerry's trip comes despite a testy initial meeting last month in Alaska between two top Biden officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken with their Chinese counterparts.

The two sides clashed over US accusations that China is rampantly stealing intellectual property, aggressively asserting itself against its neighbors, violating promises of freedoms to Hong Kong and carrying out genocide against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in the western Xinjiang region.