Mr Kerry, a former secretary of state and now Joe Biden’s climate envoy, will hold talks in Shanghai in what is thought to be the highest-level contact the new administration has yet had with China.
He is expected to meet with his host’s top climate negotiator, fellow veteran diplomat Xie Zhenhua, as Washington attempts to persuade Beijing to move away from heavy use of coal and other polluting sources of energy. The American has previously called Mr Xie “a capable advocate” for the planet.
The US and China are the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, though the latter nation contributes more fumes from burning petroleum and coal, making its cooperation essential to any success of global climate accords.
Mr Kerry told CNN: “We have big disagreements with China on some key issues, absolutely. But climate has to stand alone.”
The Biden administration and Xi Jinping’s Communist Party are sparring over trade, human rights within China and Beijing’s increasingly assertive actions in the wider Indo-Pacific region.
Mr Kerry’s visit comes as his boss attempts to establish American leadership in tackling the climate crisis following four years of Donald Trump’s hostility to the idea.
One of Mr Trump’s first moves in office was to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accords, and he promoted the use of fossil fuels throughout his single term – going so far as to tout the benefits of “beautiful, clean coal”. His administration also watered down fuel efficiency targets for car-makers.
Mr Kerry will also travel to Seoul, South Korea, as part of his four-day trip.
The Biden administration’s Earth Day virtual summit is due to take place on 22 and 23 April, with some 40 world leaders invited including Mr Xi and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
The US and others are expected to announce more ambitious national targets for cutting carbon emissions ahead of or during the meeting, and to promise financial aid for emission reductions in less wealthy nations.
Mr Biden is facing demands by some of his country’s biggest business names, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and General Electric, to slash carbon emissions to half of their 2005 levels by 2030.
Additional reporting by agencies
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies