John Kerry has said the US's strained relations with China have hampered negotiations on climate change, but that “reality was creeping in” as crucial climate talks approach.
The US special climate envoy was in Milan alongside other minsters and delegates as they prepare for the Cop26 summit, which will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
Italy and Britain are co-hosting Cop26, which aims to secure more ambitious climate action from the nearly 200 countries that signed the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which they agreed to try to limit human-caused temperature rises to 1.5°C.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday, Mr Kerry said he hoped Beijing and Washington could still find some “common ground” and make progress.
Mr Kerry said currently strained US-Sino relations have made his job harder.
“It's been more complicated because of other issues,” he added.
“Originally … climate was going to be treated on its own, because of its urgent demands.
“But reality has crept in, in the last few months, and so there's been a slowdown in our ability to be able to move.
“My hope is that we will still be able to find some common ground.
“I will be meeting with my counterpart from China shortly and we are both hopeful that we can make some progress.”
China, which is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is under pressure to deliver on its targets to achieve net zero by 2050, but the country has recently struggled to deliver power to its energy-hungry businesses.
Widespread power cuts this month have closed or partially closed factories, hitting production and global supply chains.
The energy crunch has been caused by a confluence of factors, including rising overseas demand as economies reopen, record coal prices, state electricity price controls and tough emissions targets.