BEIJING, Sept 2 — China has challenged the United States to fix relations with Beijing to make progress on climate change, the foreign ministry said today, as Washington’s climate envoy visits to press the world’s top polluter to slash emissions.

Tensions between China and the United States have soared in recent months with the two sides trading barbs on Beijing’s human rights record and its initial handling of the coronavirus.

Tackling climate change is among a handful of issues where the two sides had struck notes of harmony.

But Beijing has in recent months emphasised that environmental cooperation could be hurt by deteriorating Sino-US relations.

Foreign minister Wang Yi yesterday told US climate envoy John Kerry during a China visit that cooperation on global warming could not be disentangled from broader diplomacy between the two countries.

In a video call with Kerry, Wang accused Washington of a “major strategic miscalculation towards China”, according to the ministry statement.

“It is impossible for China-US climate cooperation to be elevated above the overall environment of China-US relations,” Wang said.

The Chinese minister said, “the ball is now in the United States’ court, and the US should stop seeing China as a threat and opponent”.

Kerry visited Japan earlier this week before travelling to the northeastern Chinese city of Tianjin.

At a virtual meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng on Thursday, Kerry said “there is no way for the world to solve the climate crisis without the full engagement and commitment” of China, according to a US State Department spokesperson. 

Kerry told Han that “without significant reduction efforts by (China), we cannot meet the goal to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius”, the State Department said.

The US envoy has repeatedly urged China, the world’s largest polluter, to step up its efforts to reduce carbon emissions, calling on Beijing during the earlier Japan leg of his trip to “fulfil the responsibility appropriate to their status”.

China is the world’s current largest emitter of carbon dioxide, followed by the United States, which has historically emitted more than any other country to date.

While China has promised to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060, the country continues to be heavily dependent on coal, which fuels nearly 60 per cent of its energy consumption. — AFP