US vows to lead on climate, press world to reduce coal

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, seen in Brussels in April 2021, has vowed renewed leadership on climate change
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, seen in Brussels in April 2021, has vowed renewed leadership on climate change JOHANNA GERON POOL/AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

The United States will press all nations to reduce reliance on coal, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday, warning "we won't have much of a world left" without stronger leadership from Washington on climate change.

"Our diplomats will challenge the practices of countries whose action -- or inaction -- is setting us back," Blinken was to say in a speech ahead of President Joe Biden's climate summit later this week, according to early excerpts.

"When countries continue to rely on coal for a significant amount of their energy, or invest in new coal factories, or allow for massive deforestation, they will hear from the United States and our partners about how harmful these actions are," he said.

Coal is the dirtiest form of energy but also an especially sensitive political issue both in China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, and the United States.

China, despite a pledge to go carbon neutral by 2060, has moved ahead with coal-powered plants.

The United States under former president Donald Trump left the Paris climate accord as he declared himself a champion of coal miners, although demand for coal has kept falling in the United States.

In the speech in Annapolis, Maryland, Blinken was to say that the United States would take action itself and did not see climate just "through the prism of threats."

"If America fails to lead the world on addressing the climate crisis, we won't have much of a world left," Blinken said.

"If we succeed, we will capitalize on the greatest opportunity to create quality jobs in generations; we'll build a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable society; and we'll protect this magnificent planet."

Biden has proposed a massive $2 trillion infrastructure package that includes a major transition toward green energy.

The Democratic president has invited some 40 world leaders to the virtual climate summit Thursday and Friday, for which he is set to announce a more ambitious US target on reducing carbon emissions by 2030.