China says onus on US in climate talks with envoy John Kerry

BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS) – China said on Friday (April 16) the United States needed to take more responsibility on climate change but welcomed greater cooperation after a visit by envoy John Kerry, state media said.

The former secretary of state turned US climate emissary was the first official from President Joe Biden’s administration to visit China, signalling hopes the two sides could work together on the global challenge despite sky-high tensions on multiple other fronts.

“China attaches importance to carrying out dialogue and cooperation on climate change with the US side,” said Vice Premier Han Zheng, according to state news agency Xinhua.

“China welcomes the US return to the Paris agreement, and expects the US side to uphold the agreement, shoulder its due responsibilities and make due contributions,” Han said after virtual talks with Kerry, who visited Shanghai where he met his Chinese counterpart.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was more blunt on Twitter as she highlighted the US withdrawal from the Paris accord under former president Donald Trump.

Biden immediately returned to the deal and next week holds a virtual summit of world leaders on climate.

“Its return is by no means a glorious comeback but rather a truant getting back to class,” Hua said of the United States.

She pressed the United States to “offer how it will make up for the lost four years” including payments to the UN-backed Green Climate Fund, which provides support to developing countries worst hit by climate change.

Biden is expected next week to announce new US targets on reducing carbon emissions as part of the summit amid mounting global alarm over record-breaking temperatures and increasingly frequent natural disasters.

Kerry and other Biden administration officials have said that it is vital to work on climate with China – by far the largest carbon emitter at nearly 30 per cent of the global total.

If the United States refuses to work with China on climate because of other disagreements, “you’re just killing yourself”, Kerry told CNN before his trip to Shanghai.

In a separate video summit, President Xi Jinping told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that China is willing to strengthen cooperation with France and Germany to cope with climate change, Chinese state media reported on Friday.

Xi last year announced that China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, would achieve a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.

“Responding to climate change is a common cause of all mankind and it should not become a geopolitical bargaining chip, a target for attacks on other countries or an excuse for trade barriers,” the official Xinhua news agency cited Xi as saying in a video summit with the European leaders.

China-EU relations face new opportunities and various challenges, Xinhua cited Xi as saying, adding that Beijing would create a fair and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies including French and German firms, and hopes Europe can treat Chinese companies in the same positive way.

Kerry’s trip comes despite little prospect seen for broader US-China talks following a tense meeting between top foreign policy officials of the two countries last month in Alaska.

The United States, both under Biden and Trump, has pressed China over alleged intellectual property theft, its assertive military moves in Asia and crackdowns on rights in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.