US climate envoy announces Russia trip at time of tension

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry will meet with Russian officials in Moscow next week, making him the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit Russia so far, at a time when the two countries are at odds.

A terse State Department announcement Thursday said Kerry’s four-day trip would be aimed at discussing “means of enhancing global climate ambition.”

China and then the United States lead the globe in climate-damaging emissions of coal and petroleum fumes, but Russia, at No. 4 globally due to its dependence on coal burning, is an outsize contributor to climate change relative to the size of its economy and population.

Kerry, former Secretary of State in the Obama administration, is encouraging other governments to commit to tough targets to cut emissions ahead of a U.N. global climate summit later this year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin took part by video in President Joe Biden’s April climate summit. But Putin’s government has set only unambitious goals for cutting emissions as the waste from burning fossil fuels heats up the planet.

The trip comes as the two nations spar over ransomware attacks blamed on gangs linked to Russia, putting Biden under domestic pressure to punish Russia over the hacking.

Biden’s administration has sought cooperation with U.S. opponents and competitors on climate despite sometimes hostile relations on other matters.

Arms control is one area where both Russia and the United States are pursuing new agreements. Strategic talks between the two are expected to start late next week in Geneva, as agreed to by Biden and Putin in a summit in Geneva last month.