China’s President Xi Jinping will attend a US-led climate change summit on Thursday at the invitation of President Joe Biden, in the first meeting between the two leaders since the advent of the new US administration.

Biden has invited dozens of world leaders to join the two-day virtual summit starting on Thursday, after bringing the US back into the 2015 Paris agreement on cutting global carbon emissions.

Xi will attend the summit via video and will deliver an “important” speech, Hua Chunying, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Beijing and Washington have persistently clashed over a range of issues, from alleged human rights abuses to China’s economic clout over other nations.

In Alaska last month, US and Chinese officials held the first high-level in-person talks that bristled with rancor and yielded no diplomatic breakthroughs.

But the two countries, the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, have rediscovered a common interest in battling climate change.

Last week the US climate envoy, John Kerry, travelled to Shanghai to meet with his Chinese counterpart in the first high-level visit to China by a Biden administration official. Both agreed on concrete actions “in the 2020s” to reduce emissions.

The talks also marked a resumption of climate dialogue halted during the Donald Trump administration, who withdrew from the Paris agreement.

Kerry and Xie Zhenhua had said they were “committed to cooperating” on tackling the climate crisis, even as sky-high tensions remain on multiple other fronts.

No global solution on climate change is likely without both the US and China onboard, since the world’s top two economies together account for nearly half of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

China – the world’s top carbon emitter – has vowed to reach peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral 30 years later.

Biden is expected this week to announce new US targets on reducing carbon emissions as part of the summit, amid mounting global alarm over record-breaking temperatures and increasingly frequent natural disasters.

Beijing has said the US needs to take more responsibility on climate change, with the foreign ministry spokesperson calling Washington’s return to the Paris accord “a truant getting back to class”.

Xi joined another virtual climate summit with France and Germany last week, where he said developed countries should “set an example” in reducing emissions and support developing nations’ responses to climate change, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

with Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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