Kerry Swipes at China’s Climate Plan, Pledges U.S. Ambition

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said China’s net-zero goal needs fleshing out, as he urged countries to be bolder in their efforts to reduce emissions.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Kerry promised the U.S. would present ambitious plans and help make a key climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, this year a success. He called for “scrutiny and measurement” of pledges to make sure they’re robust enough.

“China has said they’re going to do something by 2060, but we don’t have a clue really yet how they’re going to get there,” he said, pointing to the country’s continued support of coal-fired plants. He added that he hopes the U.S. can “work with China.”

Climate remains one of the few issues on which the U.S. and China could potentially cooperate, with relations at an all-time low amid fights over human rights, trade and the handling of the coronavirus. As both sides feel out the new dynamic between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, any criticism of China’s environmental policies could cause friction given how important the issue has become to Xi’s agenda.

Beijing surprised the world last year with a pledge to reach net-zero by 2060, and will seek to cut emissions per unit of gross domestic product by “more than” 65% from 2005 levels by 2030. It plans to make non-fossil fuels about 25% of its primary energy mix by the end of the decade.

Responding to a question about U.S. criticism of China on climate, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian in a briefing in Beijing Wednesday, called on Washington to step up its actions. “China hopes the U.S. side will fill in the gap left over from the past four years, submit ambitious NDC targets and long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy under the Paris Agreement, so as to assure the international community that it is serious about climate change,” he said, referring to Paris commitments known as Nationally Determined Contributions.

Kerry, who’s spent much of this week being welcomed back into the climate-diplomacy fold and reassuring allies of America’s ambition, said the summit in Glasgow must set stricter targets than its predecessor in Paris in 2015 -- which he was part of.

Kerry declined to say how much the U.S. plans to cut emissions, but White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy said later Wednesday that an “aggressive” blueprint would be unveiled in time for another climate gathering on April 22.

“Paris allowed countries to come and do what they wanted to do. It was the best we could do back then,” Kerry said. In Glasgow, countries have to “do what we need to do.”

“It will take a warlike enterprise,” he added.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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