John Kerry says US and China's 'differences on human rights' shouldn't get in way of fighting climate change

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President Biden's climate envoy John Kerry said the U.S. and China's "differences on human rights" should not preclude the countries from working together to fight climate change.

"Right now, climate is enough of an imperative for all of our countries. China doesn’t benefit by not having America as a partner in dealing with climate. And the United States doesn’t benefit from not having China as a partner in climate," Kerry told Foreign Policy magazine in an interview.

"We have differences on economic rules, on cyber. We have other differences on human rights, geostrategic interests, but those differences do not have to get in the way of something that is as critical as dealing with climate. ... When I was in China the other day, we negotiated back and forth in good faith."


"My sense is the Chinese know that there is a benefit to both of us being able to resolve the climate crisis because our citizens are deeply affected by our failure to do so," he continued.

The Biden administration sanctioned Chinese government officials in March over "serious human rights abuse" against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and warned that China will continue to face consequences should the "atrocities" continue.

May 18, 2015: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry answers a reporter's question during a joint news conference following meetings with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, Pool)

Kerry called the Chinese "well-practiced and strong negotiators."

"China accounts for 30% of the world’s emissions, and Mother Nature doesn’t measure whether it came from China or the United States or Timbuktu," he said. "The fact is that it’s the total of all those emissions that are affecting our climate. So we all have to contribute to the reduction. Even if the United States went to zero tomorrow, we’d still have a problem because 85% of the rest of the emissions come from the rest of the world. So this is truly a global challenge, and we’re not yet global in our response."

Last week, Biden urged world leaders to act quickly and together to confront the consequences of Earth's changing climate but notably did not specifically address heavy polluters like China.

However, Kerry visited China just days before and renewed joint efforts to tackle the issue during talks in Shanghai. The Biden administration has vowed to slash U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030.


Speaking at an economic forum last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for more equitable management of global affairs and criticized the "unilateralism of individual countries" in an apparent swipe at the U.S.

Kerry has a seat on the National Security Council as the special presidential envoy for climate.

Fox News' Julia Musto and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Evie Fordham Fox News