Aug 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Kerry heads to China with coal on the agenda

Illustration of Biden walking in front of a China flag.
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Brian Snyder/AFP via Getty Images

Special Climate Envoy John Kerry heads to China next month with plans to prod the world's largest carbon emitter on taking stronger climate steps as the crucial United Nations summit looms this fall.

Driving the news: Kerry will be in Tianjin, China from Sept. 1-3 after an Aug. 31 meeting in Tokyo, per a source familiar with the plans and published reports.

What we're watching: Via the Wall Street Journal, Kerry will "press Chinese leaders to declare a moratorium on financing international coal-fired projects."

  • The source familiar with his plans confirms that's among several items on the agenda for talks between the two largest greenhouse gas emitting nations.

Flashback: Kerry's second trip to China as President Biden's climate diplomat follows an April visit that produced a broad pledge of cooperation.

The big picture: Transforming gauzy emissions-cutting "ambition" into reality in both nations is pivotal to keeping the temperature-limiting goals of the Paris climate deal from slipping away completely.

But that's not easy as China's coal thirst shows no signs of abating, while President Biden's ability to deliver is tethered to uncertain Capitol Hill talks.

The intrigue: Getting back to China's longstanding finance for coal plants abroad, the WSJ notes China has "quietly stopped" approving new projects in recent months.

  • "Even so, Mr. Kerry has been seeking to push Beijing to publicly declare a blanket moratorium ahead of the U.N. global climate summit."
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