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U.S. climate envoy John Kerry to visit China as talks pick up again

Kerry is the third high-level U.S. official to travel to Beijing in a month as the world’s two largest economies seek to improve relations.
John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, is set to visit Beijing from July 16 to 19, according to announcements from the U.S. and China.
John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, in London on Sunday.Henry Nicholls / AFP - Getty Images
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BEIJING — John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, is set to visit Beijing from July 16 to 19, according to announcements from the U.S. and China.

“During meetings with [People’s Republic of China] officials, Secretary Kerry aims to engage with the PRC on addressing the climate crisis, including with respect to increasing implementation and ambition and promoting a successful COP28,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Kerry’s trip will mark the third time in a month that a high-level U.S. official has traveled to China for talks.

Although the meetings have yet to yield specific action, they mark a resumption of in-person communication that fell off due to the pandemic and geopolitical tensions.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen ended a four-day trip to Beijing on Sunday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Beijing in late June, months after he was originally scheduled to travel there in February.

Blinken postponed his initial plans after news of an alleged Chinese spy balloon over U.S. airspace. Beijing claims it was a weather balloon that blew off course.

While Blinken’s trip to China led to a general agreement on the need to increase flights between the two countries, the secretary of state said he failed to reinstate military-to-military communication.

“It’s clearly in the interest of both countries to avoid any kind of miscalculations, especially military,” Blinken said in an interview Tuesday with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, according to a State Department transcript. “So that’s something we’ll continue to look for.”

Blinken said he and Yellen had had “lengthy discussions” with officials in China about the “deep differences” between the two countries, as well as areas where they could cooperate. “That’s going to continue,” he said.

An area of cooperation

The U.S. and China have noted they can cooperate on climate and the macroeconomy. Climate talks were suspended after then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August. Her trip had angered Beijing, which considers the democratically self-ruled island part of its territory.

After U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in person in November, the two countries resumed communication on climate issues.

Xie Zhenhua, China’s special climate envoy, in April attended a virtual meeting of the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, according to a White House readout. Xie also attended a U.S.-led event at COP27 in Egypt in November, Kerry said in a readout.

Regarding his upcoming trip to Beijing, the U.S. and China did not specify which Chinese officials Kerry would meet.

The two sides are set to “exchange views on cooperation for tackling climate change,” China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment said in a statement.

Rising global temperatures

The average national temperature in June was 0.7 degrees Celsius (33 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than a year ago — and the second-hottest for the month going back to 1961, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

Daily temperature highs in Beijing have neared 37.8 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) or more for the last few weeks. Different parts of the country have also seen heavy rainfall or warned of flash floods.

Meanwhile, wildfires in Canada due to record heat and drought have sent smoky air over New York and other U.S. cities.

Kerry, secretary of state during the Obama administration, became special presidential envoy for climate in 2021 when Biden was inaugurated.