Beijing said Wednesday that climate cooperation with Washington will depend on the overall strength of Sino-US relations, after America’s climate tsar John Kerry urged China to curb emissions quickly. 

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.

John Kerry
John Kerry. Photo: Ralph Alswang via Flickr.

Tackling climate change is among a handful of issues where the two sides had agreed to work together.

However, after Kerry called on Beijing to act more rapidly on climate challenges, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned that cooperation on environmental issues could be affected by deteriorating Sino-US relations.

“I want to emphasise that the cooperation between China and the United States in specific fields is closely related to the overall health of Sino-US relations,” Zhao said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

“The US should not wantonly interfere in China’s internal affairs to the detriment of China’s interests, while demanding China’s understanding and support on bilateral and global affairs.”

Kerry on Monday called on Chinese policymakers to ensure emissions peak before the targeted deadline in 2030 since it was “the only way to break free from the world’s current mutual suicide pact”.

greenhouse gases climate change
Photo: Mohri UN-CECAR via Flickr

The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius was “essentially impossible” without “sufficient reduction by China”, he said during a policy speech in London.

Kerry visited Shanghai in April as he looks to cooperate on climate change despite friction on other fronts.

In recent days, Washington has irked China by issuing a warning on business risks in Hong Kong due to Beijing’s clampdown on freedoms, shortly after the US Senate voted to ban products from the politically sensitive region of Xinjiang over claims of forced labour.

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