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John Kerry: U.S.-China climate cooperation is a "critical standalone issue"

President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. must deal with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed that Beijing's human rights and trade abuses "will never be traded" for climate cooperation.

Why it matters: The last few years have brought about a bipartisan consensus on the need for the U.S. to confront China's aggression. But as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, China will be a vital player if the world is going to come close to reining in emissions on the scale needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.


What they're saying: "We have serious differences with China on some very, very important issues, and I am as mindful of that as anybody, having served as secretary of state and in the Senate," Kerry said at a press briefing.

  • "The issues of theft of intellectual property and access to markets, South China sea. Run the list. We all know them. Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate. That's not going to happen," he continued.
  • "But climate is a critical standalone issue that we have to deal on ... So it's urgent that we find a way to compartmentalize, to move forward, and we'll wait and see. But President Biden is very, very clear about the need to address the other issues with China."

Go deeper: Biden sets his sights on China

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