New Secretary of State John Kerry Can Be a Strong Leader on US-China Climate Cooperation

On Friday, Senator John Kerry will become the new U.S. Secretary of State. In his confirmation hearing last week, Senator Kerry spoke of climate change and its link to U.S. domestic energy policy. Senator Kerry has been a champion in the fight against climate change for nearly three decades and has shown a deep understanding of the impacts of climate change not only in the U.S. but on communities around the world. Senator Kerry’s knowledge of and commitment to environmental issues will be highly valuable for the cooperation on climate change between U.S. and China – the two largest energy consumers and carbon dioxide emitters in the world.  

The world desperately needs a coordinated global effort on climate change, and Senator Kerry acknowledged this in his confirmation hearing by stating, “If we just sit around where we are today, we’re going to have a problem. Because China is soon going to have double the emissions of the United States of America. We’ve got to get those folks as part of this unified effort and I intend to do that.”

This is particularly timely, as Beijing (and much of eastern China) has been blanketed by the worst pollution in recent memory for most of January. One major reason is China’s heavy dependence on coal, which is on path to total the amount consumed by the rest of the world, combined. To some U.S. Republican Senators, however, this is the reason why the U.S. should not act on climate change until China does, because they believe that any domestic efforts will be offset by China’s growing emissions. This is inexcusable.  

Climate change is a global threat and requires global efforts. The world cannot afford to wait any longer. We have seen the extreme weather events that have cost the U.S. billions of dollars in damage in 2012 alone. This is why we need both action at home and action abroad to combat climate change. I have met Senator Kerry before in Beijing, who was very engaged on climate, energy and environmental issues. I have every confidence that Senator Kerry will act as a strong leader on this critical international issue.

This blog was coauthored with my colleague Christine Xu.

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