By Jeff Mason WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US climate envoy John Kerry said on Thursday he hoped to speak with his new Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua soon, calling him a “leader” and a “capable defender” of his country. on the topic of global warming. . Kerry, who reports directly to President Joe Biden and will represent the United States in future climate talks, said he learned on Wednesday of China’s selection of Xie for the post of special envoy for climate. “We have not spoken yet. We will do so at the appropriate time. Shortly, I am sure,” Kerry told Reuters in an interview. “I know him very well because I have worked with him for … 20 years or so.” Xie led the Chinese delegation in the global climate negotiations from 2007 to 2018. Biden brought the United States back to the Paris international climate agreement that addresses global warming after his predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the country from the pact. An agreement between the United States and China to partner on climate change in 2014 was seen as critical to negotiating the Paris agreement in 2015, when Biden was vice president. “He has long been … a leader and a believer,” Kerry said of Xie. “We know each other and we have respect, I think, for each other’s efforts so far.” China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases more than a decade ago due to its rapid economic expansion and dependence on coal. Last year, Beijing said its goal is to reach maximum emissions before the end of this decade, a promise that many climate activists consider too modest. During the pandemic, China put about 40 GW of coal-fired power plants into operation to stimulate its economic recovery, raising concerns about its short-term climate goals. Kerry reiterated his position that cooperation with China on global warming did not indicate that Washington would neglect other concerns. The sticking points between the two countries include human rights and trade. “This is not a climate trade-off for those other issues. This is an independent international crisis, which we all must deal with no matter what,” Kerry said. The Biden administration is expected to take a more collaborative role with other countries in addressing concerns about China than the Trump White House did. Kerry said he had already contacted his counterparts in Europe, Korea and Australia to coordinate the strategy. He declined to say whether he backed a multilateral carbon adjustment tax with the European Union and Canada to pressure China to cut emissions. “It is too early to advocate for one particular international policy or another,” he said. “We’re really trying to figure out what the best … goals are when it comes to starting a … complicated conversation.” Kerry, a former Secretary of State and US Senator from Massachusetts, is working with Biden’s national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, who is crafting a plan to cut US emissions that Kerry can present to the world. Kerry said the Biden administration has many legislative options that could be used to advance climate goals, from an infrastructure bill to budget requests and independent climate bills potentially introduced by lawmakers.
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