US climate envoy John Kerry was set to arrive in China on Wednesday for what Beijing said would be a four-day trip, as the two countries seek cooperation over the environment despite acrimony on other fronts.
In the first trip to China by a Biden administration official, the former secretary of state will visit Shanghai before travelling onto the South Korean capital Seoul.
His trip comes in preparation for President Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit next week, to which the US leader has invited both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Beijing, which has so far not committed to Xi’s presence at the summit, said Kerry would arrive on Wednesday and stay until Saturday “at the invitation of China.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that during the trip Kerry will meet with China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and “exchange views on Sino-US cooperation on climate change”, giving no other details.
Kerry’s trip comes despite a testy initial meeting last month in Alaska between top Biden officials and their Chinese counterparts.
The two sides clashed over accusations that China is violating promises of freedoms to Hong Kong and carrying out genocide against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Washington is hoping to find areas of common ground despite the high political tensions.
Kerry had told CNN that although Washington and Beijing had “big disagreements… climate has to stand alone.”
The fact the trip was happening at all is a significant step, said Li Shuo of Greenpeace China.
“I don’t think we should underestimate the gesture, regardless of what it delivers,” he said.
“We should recognise that this is of course about climate change… but also the implications of this trip goes beyond this particular issue.
“The idea of decoupling on climate change: that’s neither feasible nor wise.”
Biden has made climate a top priority, turning the page from his predecessor Donald Trump, who was closely aligned with the fossil fuel industry.
The US president has rejoined the 2015 Paris accord, which Kerry negotiated as secretary of state and committed nations to take action to keep temperature rises at no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
With the world badly off track to meeting the goal, Biden hopes that next week’s virtual summit will result in stronger pledges in advance of UN-led climate talks in Glasgow at the end of the year.
Kerry — who has already travelled on his climate push to European allies, India, Bangladesh, and the United Arab Emirates — noted that he worked closely with China on the Paris accord.
“President Xi has talked about leadership, about China’s role in this. We want to work with China in doing this,” Kerry said in an earlier interview with India Today.
No global solution is likely without both the US and China, the world’s top two economies which together account for nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.
China alone produces almost 30 percent of carbon emissions, far more than any country, after decades of rapid industrialization.
But President Xi has promised that China’s emissions will peak by 2030, as part of a major push to clean up the environment.
Biden is also hoping to carry out far-reaching efforts to transform the US economy toward green energy, and has identified climate as among the narrow areas in which the US will seek to work with China.
The United States will try to keep climate negotiations with China separate from other disagreements affecting the two countries’ ties, John Kerry said Wednesday.
The former secretary of state, who is now President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, stressed that while it isn’t possible for the US to stem rising global temperatures alone, developing an aggressive domestic policy would make an “enormous difference.”
“Now with respect to China, obviously we have serious differences with China, on some very, very, important issues,” he continued.
“The issues of theft of intellectual property and access to market, the South China Sea — I mean 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. But climate is a critical standalone issue that we have to deal on.”
He added that China was responsible for 30 percent of the world’s emissions and the US for 15 percent.
“So it’s urgent that we find a way to compartmentalize to move forward,” he said.
China has called for a reset in relations with Biden’s administration after a corrosive period of diplomacy under Donald Trump, who harangued Beijing over trade, rights, the origins of Covid-19, tech and defense supremacy.
Biden has signaled he will remain tough on the superpower rival, but soften the tone and commit to international cooperation after Trump’s divisive “America First” approach.
The former secretary of state John Kerry signed the 2015 Paris Agreement on behalf of the United States, a decision subsequently reversed by President Donald Trump.
Now, he is set to be President-elect Joe Biden’s climate envoy, in a clear sign of the upcoming administration’s renewed commitment to fighting climate change.
“I’m returning to government to get America back on track to address the biggest challenge of this generation and those that will follow,” Kerry tweeted shortly after his appointment.
“The climate crisis demands nothing less than all hands on deck.”
The 76-year-old, a longtime Senate colleague, friend, and political ally of Biden who stood by the president-elect when his candidacy was in crisis, brings to the table the clout and connections associated with being ex-president Barack Obama’s top diplomat.
The chief architect of the Iran nuclear deal will need all his skills as a statesman as the US looks to rebuild its strained credibility when it returns to the Paris accord, which Biden has vowed to do on the first day he takes office.
Despite his advancing age, observers say the Democratic Party grandee, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004, has lost none of his zest for international affairs.
Last year he pivoted towards making climate his signature issue, launching a cross-party coalition called “World War Zero” that included top military officials, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Emma Watson.
“Things are getting worse, not better. So we have our unlikely allies coming together here… to treat this like a war,” he said.
The years of climate inaction under Trump have made the war harder to win.
Emissions from the world’s second-biggest polluter have been falling in recent years thanks to the increased contribution of natural gas and renewables — and this year by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the rate isn’t close to what is needed to achieve the goal Biden has set for the United States, of net carbon neutrality by 2050.
– Regaining trust – The Paris agreement aims to limit end-of-century warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), to avoid triggering a series of catastrophic climate tipping points that could confine most of humanity to the planet’s northern and southern bands.
Scientists have calculated that carbon neutrality — which would involve reducing emissions and increasing the amount of carbon captured from the atmosphere — must be achieved by the middle of the century to reach that goal.
Back in 2015, setting a national carbon neutrality target of 2050 seemed radical. But since then, many have done just that, including the European Union.
China recently announced its intentions to get there by 2060, all the while scolding Washington for “obstructing” the global fight.
Kerry’s first task, therefore, will be to regain the trust of international partners whose faith was shaken by Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the agreement and disdain for climate science, which eased the way for countries like Australia and Brazil to weaken their ambitions.
It’s a tall task, but Kerry has an established track record.
Beyond Paris and Iran, his diplomatic accomplishments include reaching a deal with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, and pacifying Pakistan in the wake of the Osama Bin Laden raid, after the wayward ally was kept in the dark.
That’s in addition to being a highly-decorated veteran from the Vietnam war, which he signed up for while still a student at Yale University, only to grow disillusioned with the futility of the conflict.
He trained as a lawyer, but was drawn into the world of politics, becoming elected senator for Massachusetts.
The tall, patrician Bostonian, who sports a thick mane of gray hair and is known to speak good French, will need to hit the ground running. Biden will be expected to unveil America’s new climate plan to the world ahead of a UN conference in Glasgow next November.
Former US secretary of state John Kerry, who lost to George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, endorsed Joe Biden on Thursday as the Democratic candidate for next year’s White House race.
Kerry, 75, said the former vice president to Barack Obama and longtime senator from Delaware “is the president our country desperately needs right now.”
“I’ve never before seen the world more in need of someone who on day one can begin the incredibly hard work of putting back together the world Donald Trump has smashed apart,” Kerry said in a statement.
Kerry, a former senator from Massachusetts, served as secretary of state during Obama’s second term in office. Kerry and Biden also served for more than two decades together in the US Senate.
Biden, 77, is the current frontrunner in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, according to an average of national polls by RealClearPolitics.com.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg are the only other candidates in the crowded field with double-digit support.
“I don’t endorse lightly,” Kerry said. “Joe and I both got into public service to make our country fairer for people and make the world safer.
“I’ve watched Joe do exactly that as a senator, statesman, and vice president,” he said.
“Joe will defeat Donald Trump next November,” Kerry continued. “He’s the candidate with the wisdom and standing to fix what Trump has broken, to restore our place in the world, and improve the lives of working people here at home.”
Kerry said he would join Biden on Friday in Iowa, which holds the first vote in February of the Democratic primary season, and travel with him to New Hampshire, another early-voting state, on Sunday.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has accused Barack Obama of pushing for his defeat in the 2015 Presidential election.
Mr Jonathan who lost the election to President Muhammadu Buhari blasted the then United States President of taking an unusual step by “prodding the electorate to vote for the opposition” in the election.
The claim was part of several made by the former Nigerian leader in his new book, ‘My Transition Hours’, launched in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Tuesday.
“On March 23, 2015, President Obama himself took the unusual step of releasing a video message directly to Nigerians all but telling them how to vote,” Mr Jonathan wrote.
“In that video, Obama urged Nigerians to open the “next chapter” by their votes. Those who understood subliminal language deciphered that he was prodding the electorate to vote for the opposition to form a new government.”
For Mr Jonathan, the message undermined Nigerians and smacked of hypocrisy. “The message was so condescending, it was as if Nigerians did not know what to do and needed an Obama to direct them,” he said.
The former Nigerian leader added that although Obama, in his message, said “all Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear,” his government was vehemently and publicly against the postponement of the elections to enable the military defeat Boko Haram and prevent them from intimidating voters.
“This was the height of hypocrisy!” Jonathan declared.
Jonathan’s grouse with Obama went beyond the video. He narrated in the book that the actions of the then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, especially his visit to Nigeria after the elections were rescheduled from February 2015 to March belied a plot to humiliate him.
This, he explained, was because even though the decision to postpone the elections was taken by INEC after a meeting of the Council of State, Kerry refused to accept that it was in the interest of the country and the electorate.
“In fact, John Kerry did not accept our reasons for the rescheduling,” he said. This did not sit well with Mr Jonathan and he stated as much in the book.
He wrote, “How can the U.S. Secretary of State know what is more important for Nigeria than Nigeria’s own government?
“How could they have expected us to conduct elections when Boko Haram controlled part of the North East and was killing and maiming Nigerians? Not even the assurance of the sanctity of May 29, 2015 handover date could calm them down. In Nigeria, the Constitution is very clear. No President can extend his tenure by one day.”
Despite the criticism that followed the decision to reschedule the election, Jonathan insisted that the decision was the right one and it paid off.
He said, “Anyhow, the six weeks served us well. We received the military equipment we were expecting within that period and our Armed Forces commendably dealt a deserving blow on the terrorists and repossessed all territorial areas of Nigeria previously occupied by the terrorists. Boko Haram was deflated up to the point I handed over to my successor on May 29, 2015.
“We conducted the elections peacefully, even if there were issues raised about its fairness. At least, the nation was relieved that the election held peacefully and that there was no post-election violence.”
Read an excerpt from the book about how the elections were postponed and the pressure that followed below:
“The decision and announcement to postpone the elections were eventually made by the only body which could do so under the Constitution. I should talk briefly about the INEC here because of the insinuations that my administration muscled INEC to make the pronouncement. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth as people came to realise. Yes, the posture of INEC could appear edgy, but it knew it was not ready and that the election was too important to mess up.
“The PVC shortage was everywhere. The lopsided collection of PVC caused an uproar that grew into a national din. The suspected housing of PVCs in the custody of non-INEC personnel was an issue. There were also issues with card readers. All of these happening despite years of preparation and substantial funds made available. It was all building up to a perfect storm, but those were INEC’s problems which we were willing to help resolve.
“Even then, the security of our country was our job and the military advised as they deemed fit. Before the election was eventually rescheduled by INEC, I summoned all the Service Chiefs, the NSA, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Director General of State Security (DG DSS), among others to get further information. Then I called a meeting of the Council of State and requested the heads of security services and the INEC chairman to attend. These were not apolitical, but at least they could rise above politics and represent the interest of the entire country. At the end of deliberations, it was agreed that the elections should be postponed for six weeks in order to create a safer environment for voters and officials on Election Day.
“Let me add that the Council of State comprises all former Presidents and Heads of State, all former chief justices of the federation, and all 36 serving State Governors who are from different political parties.
“The INEC was then directed to hold meetings with political parties while the NSA was to brief them on the security angle to the rescheduling. The vote in favour of the rescheduling was overwhelming. INEC thereafter announced the rescheduling of the election to the nation. I must add that beyond security concerns, one finds it difficult to understand how INEC or the political parties would want elections held at a time when more than 30% of the Nigerian electorate were yet to get their PVCs. This would have disenfranchised a significant portion of the electorate.
“The foreign pressure on the issue of election rescheduling was intense. They maintained the curious posture of one who had been deceived before and therefore had every reason to cede no credence to our position. But there was no reason to have such a posture.
“The United States and the United Kingdom were especially agitated. David Cameron, then the U.K. Prime Minister, called to express his concern about the election rescheduling, just as John Kerry came from the United States to express further worry. It was at best unusual and sobering. In fact, John Kerry did not accept our reasons for the rescheduling.
“It was unbelievable because at the back of our minds we knew why the agitation was beyond what meets the eye. There were deeper political interests.
“In attendance at the meeting of the Council of State where the decision to reschedule the election was taken were almost all the living former Heads of State of this country. That should have convinced John Kerry of the good intentions of the government. He cannot claim to love and defend Nigeria more than all our former heads of state present at the meeting. I have stated earlier how Kerry’s visit was designed to humiliate a sitting Nigerian President and clearly take sides in the country’s election.
“Anyhow, the six weeks served us well. We received the military equipment we were expecting within that period and our Armed Forces commendably dealt a deserving blow on the terrorists and repossessed all territorial areas of Nigeria previously occupied by the terrorists. Boko Haram was deflated up to the point I handed over to my successor on May 29, 2015.
“We conducted the elections peacefully, even if there were issues raised about its fairness. At least, the nation was relieved that the election held peacefully and that there was no post-election violence.”
President Donald Trump lashed out at former Secretary of State John Kerry for his meetings with Iran’s foreign minister after the Obama-appointee had left office.
“John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people,” Trump said on Twitter late Thursday.
“He told them to wait out the Trump Administration!” he said, ending his Tweet with the word “BAD!”
Kerry, who negotiated the 2015 Iran nuclear deal which Trump scrapped this year, said during a tour to promote his new book “Every Day is Extra” that he had met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “three or four times” since he left office and Trump had entered the White House.
Asked by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday if he had offered Zarif advice on how to deal with Trump’s decision to withdraw from the pact, he replied: “No, that’s not my job.
“What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better.
“I’ve been very blunt to Foreign Minister Zarif, and told him look, you guys need to recognize that the world does not appreciate what’s happening with missiles, what’s happening with Hezbollah, what’s happening with Yemen,” he added, echoing the current administration’s denunciation of Tehran’s “malign” influence.
Conservative commentators immediately leapt on the act as evidence of “treason,” with some calling for Kerry to go to “prison.”
Asked by a Republican lawmaker during a congressional hearing about the so-called shadow diplomacy, Manisha Singh, an assistant secretary of state, said Thursday: “It’s unfortunate if people from a past administration would try to compromise the progress we’re trying to make in this administration.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert added: “I’ve seen him brag about the meetings that he has had with the Iranian government and Iranian government officials. I’ve also seen reports that he is apparently providing, according to reports, advice to the Iranian government.
“The best advise that he should be giving the Iranian government is stop supporting terror groups around the world.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, heading the U.S. election observation mission, urged Kenyans on Monday to ensure free and fair vote amid fears that it could descend into violence.
Kerry heads a 67-strong U.S. observer mission and, along with former Prime Minister of Senegal Aminata Toure co-leads the Carter Centre, a non-profit organisation working to advance democracy and human rights which has deployed 80 observers.
Opposition leader, Raila Odinga, 72, who lost elections in 2007 and 2013, has already said President Uhuru Kenyatta, 55, can only win if his ruling Jubilee party rigs the vote, a stance that increases the chances of a disputed result and unrest.
Opinion polls before Tuesday’s presidential election put the pair neck-and-neck.
Kenyans will also be voting for members of parliament and local representatives.
In 2007, Odinga’s call for street protests after problems with the vote count triggered a widespread campaign of ethnic violence in which 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced.
He said that the situation has made his administration’s ongoing anti-corruption war “tough and grueling.”
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, says the President told the United States Secretary Of State that corruption was fighting vigorously back, but assured Kerry that the anti-graft war would be won.
President Buhari said corrupt people had accumulated a formidable arsenal of illicit wealth, which they were now deploying against the government on diverse fronts.
Syrian government and allied forces are pushing toward Aleppo, pursuing their week-old offensive to take the rebel-held part of the city after dozens of overnight air strikes.
The Syrian army told the insurgents to leave their positions, offering safe passage and aid supplies.
Syrian forces supported by Iranian-backed militias and Russian air power began their push to take the whole of the divided city after a ceasefire collapsed last month.
An air campaign by the Syrian government and its allies has been reinforced by a ground offensive against the besieged eastern half of Aleppo, where insurgents have been holding out. Hospitals have been badly hit in the assault, medics say.
Reuters reports that while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke by phone to discuss normalisation of the situation, Britain said the bombing of hospitals by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad made it impossible to talk about peace.
“It is the continuing savagery of the Assad regime against the people of Aleppo and the complicity of the Russians in committing what are patently war crimes – bombing hospitals, when they know they are hospitals and nothing but hospitals – that is making it impossible for peace negotiations to resume,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian military said on Sunday that the army and its allies had advanced south from the Handarat refugee camp north of the city, taking the Kindi hospital and parts of the Shuqaif industrial area.
Zakaria Malahifji, of the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim, told Reuters there were clashes in this area on Sunday.
The Observatory said air strikes and shelling continued on Sunday and there was fierce fighting all along the front line which cuts the city in two.
The Syrian army said that rebel fighters should vacate east Aleppo in return for safe passage and aid supplies. “The army high command calls on all armed fighters in the eastern neighborhood of Aleppo to leave these neighborhoods and let civilian residents live their normal lives,” a statement carried by state news agency SANA said.
East Aleppo came under siege in early July after its main supply route, the Castello Road, fell under government control.
International attempts to establish ceasefires to allow in United Nations humanitarian aid have failed, although other aid groups have brought in limited supplies.
The United Nations has said that at least nine million people are in urgent need of aid in Nigeria’s northeast and neighbouring countries.
The UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, Toby Lanzer, said at least $559 million would be needed in the next four months to ease the crisis in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
He said more than six million people were “severely food insecure” with 568,000 children acutely malnourished adding that the UN has appealed to Britain and other western governments for help.
Mr Lanzer said at the Chatham House in London: “With population growth of speed and nature, in an area where everyone is already poor, the environment is incredibly stressed.
“There is a never-ending stream of heavier violence, it is only natural to conclude that more people will migrate,” he said.
The Heads of State of the Lake Chad Basin and donor countries would meet on the margins of the annual United Nations General Assembly holding next week.
Meanwhile, the US President, Barack Obama, would meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the sidelines of the Assembly.
US Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes, disclosed that President Obama would hold separate sessions with the Nigerian President, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi and Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama, will meet with Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, the leaders of Iraq and Colombia on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly holding next week.
The White House Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes, explained that President Obama would hold separate sessions with the Nigerian President, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi and Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos.
President Buhari would participate in the five-day, 71st session of the General Assembly where he would deliver Nigeria’s statement at the opening of the general debate.
The theme of this year’s debate is “The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push To Transform Our World”.
Mr Duterte was responding to the US President’s promise to raise the issue of drug-related and extra-judicial killings in the Philippines at their meeting.
US aides later confirmed Mr Obama would meet South Korea’s President instead.
In reply, Mr Duterte issued a statement saying he regretted that the comment came across as a personal attack on the US President.
This is not the first time President Duterte has made inflammatory statements against prominent figures as he had attacked Pope Francis, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry and the US Ambassador to the Philippines in recent times.