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Biden climate envoy Kerry to visit Saudi Arabia next week

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 18, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

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WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden's climate envoy, John Kerry, will travel to Saudi Arabia next week for meetings with government counterparts and business leaders on efforts to address the climate crisis, the State Department said on Thursday.

Kerry will visit Riyadh on Oct. 24 and 25 before the U.N. climate change convention in Glasgow that starts Oct. 31, the department said in a statement.

In Riyadh, Kerry will participate in the Middle East Green Initiative Summit which will discuss ways to reduce emissions, reverse desertification and grow forests.

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The United States and the EU are trying to get Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, to join a global initiative on slashing emissions of methane 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels. More than 30 countries including Germany, Canada and Japan have joined the partnership which covers 60% of global GDP and 30% of global methane emissions.

It is uncertain whether the kingdom will sign on. Saudi Arabia Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Wednesday that the world must pay attention to energy supply security, which should not be compromised in the fight to curb climate change. read more

Kerry and Saudi Arabia share an interest in developing hydrogen as an alternative fuel. Saudi Arabia is building a $5 billion plant to produce 'green hydrogen' by extracting the gas from water using electrolyzers powered by solar and wind power. Hydrogen can be used in fuel cell vehicles or be blended with natural gas to create a cleaner-burning fuel, but today most hydrogen is extracted using fossil fuels that produce large amounts of planet-warming emissions.

Kerry said last month that hydrogen could be a multitrillion-dollar global market in coming decades.

Prince Abdulaziz also said that uncertain demand for green hydrogen, which costs about four times more than fossil fuel derived hydrogen, was its biggest challenge.

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Reporting by Susan Heavey and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Mark Porter

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