Blinken lays out Biden’s climate diplomacy agenda

US secretary of state vows to take hard diplomatic line on climate change before president’s environmental summit

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about climate change at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., April 19, 2021. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday pledged that the US would take an aggressive diplomatic approach to countries that are not doing enough to curb carbon emissions.

"We'll put the climate crisis at the centre of our foreign policy and national security," Mr Blinken said during a speech in Annapolis.

"That means taking into account how every bilateral and multilateral engagement, every policy decision will impact our goal of putting the world on a safer, more sustainable path."

He said that US diplomats would challenge countries that were lagging behind in action.

"When countries continue to rely on coal for a significant amount of their energy, or invest in new coal factories, or allow for massive deforestation, they will hear from the United States and our partners about how harmful these actions are," Mr Blinken said.

He vowed to relay a “strong message” at the G7 meeting next month, noting that its “members produce a quarter of the world’s emissions".

Mr Blinken said that even if the US immediately were to reach reached net-zero carbon emissions, “we’ll lose the fight against climate change if we can’t address the more than 85 per cent of emissions coming from the rest of the world".

Mr Blinken's speech set the tone for the two-day climate summit President Joe Biden is set to convene online on April 22 and 23.

Mr Biden has invited 40 world leaders to attend the summit, including UAE President Sheikh Khalifa and Saudi King Salman.

US climate envoy John Kerry attended a regional climate summit in Abu Dhabi this month.

Afterwards, the US and UAE announced they would finance decarbonisation projects throughout the Middle East.

Mr Blinken promoted renewable energy investments as “the cheapest source of bulk electricity in countries that contain two thirds of the world’s population".

“The global renewable energy market is projected to be $2.15 trillion by 2025,” he said.

“That’s over 35 times the size of the current market for renewables in the US. Already, solar and wind technicians are among the fastest growing jobs in America.

"It's difficult to imagine the United States winning the long-term strategic competition with China if we cannot lead the renewable-energy revolution.

"But right now, we’re falling behind. China is the largest producer and exporter of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric vehicles."

Chinese President Xi Jinping is also expected to attend Mr Biden’s climate summit.

The US and China have vowed to outline strategies to achieve net-zero emissions before international climate change talks scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland.

Mr Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement in February, undoing former president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the accord.

The agreement stipulates that countries should increase their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions every five years in a bid to keep global warming at less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

"The world has already fallen behind on the targets we set six years ago with the Paris Agreement," Mr Blinken said.

"Those targets didn't go far enough to begin with. Today, the science is unequivocal. We need to keep the earth warming to 1.5°C to avoid catastrophe."