John Kerry says US satellites will monitor China’s climate progress

President Biden’s climate summit last week elicited updated promises on reducing emissions from major emitters but not China or Russia

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Monday 26 April 2021 17:07 BST

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John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s international climate envoy, has said that the US will use satellites to monitor China’s progress on commitments to tackle the climate crisis.

The US hosted a virtual climate summit last week which elicited new emissions targets from South Korea, Japan, Canada and South Africa but not China, the world’s largest carbon emitter.

China’s President Xi Jinping told the summit that China would work alongside the US on climate and reiterated his announcement from last year that the superpower aims to reach peak emissions by 2030. He also said that China would “strictly control” coal projects, and limit increases of the fossil fuel over the next five years before phasing down.

Former secretary of state Mr Kerry toldThe Times that while China’s statements on coal reduction were a positive sign, the US was not taking any promises at “face value”.

“What we’ll do here is verify. We have massive capacity with satellites to know exactly what’s being produced where — and that will be true for all major corporations with major supply chains, we’ll know what they’re doing,” Mr Kerry told the newspaper.

“We know a lot about the Chinese coal structure, we’ve had long discussions about it and now we have to have some very direct conversations about where they are actually headed versus the rhetoric. But there’s no naivety, trust me.”

The US climate summit, attended by 40 world leaders, was aimed at driving ambition ahead of the United Nations climate summit, the Cop26, in Glasgow this November.

The White House said that pledges made around the US event, which also came from the EU and UK, now means more than half the global economy is committed to the pace of emission reductions required to keep to a 1.5C target.

Scientists warn that to avoid greater climate catastrophe, the average global temperature needs to remain well below 2 degrees Celsius (C), with an aim of an increasingly ambitious 1.5C goal. The planet is currently on track for more than 3C of global heating by end of the century.

Mr Kerry told The Times that ahead of the Glasgow summit, his focus would be on China and Russia. The latter is the world’s fourth largest emitter after the US and India. The climate envoy said that he intended to travel to Russia, adding that it was time for “the hard diplomacy”.

For its part, the US administration has pledged to cut carbon emissions as much as 52 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

Mr Biden’s announcement last week now means that the US ranks among the most ambitious nations in tackling the climate crisis, according to research group Rhodium.

The promise will require a dramatic overhaul of how America runs: sweeping changes to the power sector and transportation, and rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

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