China’s Xi participates in US-hosted climate summit, in first meeting with Biden

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend US President Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit this week, Beijing said on Wednesday, as the world’s leading polluting countries seek rare common ground despite broader political tensions.

Biden has invited 40 world leaders, including Xi and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, to the meeting, which begins on Earth Day, to mark Washington’s return to the forefront of the fight against climate change after former President Donald Trump left the process.

The virtual summit will be the first meeting between the two leaders since Biden became president.

Xi will give an “important speech” at the meeting, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, days after a trip to Shanghai by US climate envoy John Kerry – the first official from the Biden administration to visit China.

Kerry and Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua had said they were “committed to working together” to tackle the climate crisis, although soaring tensions remain on several other fronts.

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Washington and Beijing’s pledge to work together comes amid allegations of China’s policies in Hong Kong and its treatment of Uighurs in its northwestern Xinjiang region – criticism that Beijing rejects as interfering in its domestic affairs.

No global solution to climate change is likely without both the United States and China on board, as the world’s two best economies together account for almost half of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Truant’ returns to class

Biden has made climate a top priority and turned the page from his predecessor Donald Trump, who was closely aligned with the fossil fuel industry.

The President of the United States has rejoined the Paris Agreement 2015, which Kerry negotiated as Secretary of State and which obliged nations to take measures to keep temperature rises no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

China – the world’s foremost carbon dioxide emitter – has promised to reach peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral thirty years later.

At the same time, Biden is expected to announce new US targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions this week as part of the summit in the midst of growing global alarms over record high temperatures and increasingly common natural disasters.

Beijing has said the United States must take more responsibility for climate change, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying calling Washington’s return to the Paris Agreement “a sad return to class”.

Xi joined a new virtual climate summit with France and Germany last week, saying developed countries should “set a good example” in reducing emissions and supporting developing countries’ response to climate change, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.