US climate envoy John Kerry to visit China and Japan this week

Mr John Kerry has led US efforts to convince the global community of the threat of climate change. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - United States climate envoy John Kerry arrived in Tokyo for talks on Tuesday (Aug 31) with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and other officials on cooperation on carbon emissions and cutting support for fossil fuels, especially coal, before heading to Tianjin in China.

Talks in the two Asian economic powerhouses will be "to engage with international counterparts on efforts to address the climate crisis", the US State Department said in a statement on Monday (Aug 30).

The former secretary of state has led US efforts to convince the global community of the threat of climate change and urge the acceleration of efforts to curb carbon emissions.

The US push comes in advance of the UN COP26 climate conference, which will be held in Scotland later this year.

In Japan, discussions are likely to focus on the country's continued support for coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. Japan is the only G-7 country building coal-fired power stations as it struggles with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which led to the shutdown of most of the country's reactors.

Discussions in Tokyo are also likely to focus on plans by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to organise and develop a scheme to acquire coal-fired power plants and shut them down early.

Kerry's visit to Japan and China comes after the US Treasury said earlier this month the US would oppose most involvement of multilateral development banks, like the World Bank, in fossil fuel projects.

The effort includes British insurer Prudential PLC, lenders Citigroup Inc and HSBC Holdings PLC and BlackRock Real Assets, with ambitions for an initial purchase in 2022.

Japan is the largest shareholder of the ADB and support from Tokyo will be crucial to any success for the plans.

China, the US and Japan are the world's biggest, second- and fifth-biggest carbon emitters respectively.

On his trip to China, Kerry will look to build on commitments he helped secure during his visit in April, when the two countries, the world's two biggest carbon polluters, agreed to cooperate to curb climate change with urgency.

China has pledged to "enhance ambition" on curbing climate change, and is set to announce new measures before the end of the year.

Activists are watching for any new pledge on coal, with many hoping that Beijing will stop financing overseas coal-fired power plants.

Amid political tension between the two sides, the US has tried to ring fence climate issues, and Kerry has no remit to discuss any other topics with China.

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