Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

China and the United States, the world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, have unveiled an agreement to improve cooperation to tackle climate change, including by reducing methane emissions, protecting forests and phasing out coal.

In a joint statement announced at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the countries announced an agreement to redouble efforts to combat climate change with “concrete actions”.

The two largest carbon polluting countries said their agreement called for “improved climate action in the 2020s” using the 2015 Paris climate agreement guidelines, including a new stronger emissions reduction target in 2025.

The agreement calls for “concrete and pragmatic” regulations in decarbonization, the reduction of methane emissions and the fight against deforestation.

“Both sides acknowledge that there is a gap between the current effort and the goals of the Paris Agreement, so we will jointly strengthen climate action,” China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said during the announcement of the agreement on Wednesday.

According to Xie, the agreement would involve “concrete plans” for improved action this decade and both countries would “work on finalizing the rule book of the Paris Agreement” at the UN climate summit in Glasgow.

United States Special Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry speaks immediately after a press conference hosted by China’s special envoy for climate change Xie Zhenhua [Alastair Grant/AP Photo]

The 2015 agreement commits nations to work to limit global temperature rises to between 1.5C and 2C through far-reaching emissions.

Xie said China and the US have held 30 virtual meetings in the past 10 months to come up with the initiative.

“As the two major powers in the world, China and the United States must accept the responsibility to work with other parties to address climate change,” he said.

The US and China together account for about 40 percent of all carbon pollution.

US climate envoy John Kerry said the countries had also agreed to reduce methane emissions and that the agreement with China was a statement of support for a successful United Nations climate summit.

“Together we have outlined our support for a successful COP26, including certain elements that will foster ambition, but let me be clear that this statement is a step on which we can build to close the gap … Every step now matters and we have a long journey ahead of us, ”Kerry told a news conference.

‘Good news’

Last week, US President Joe Biden said Chinese leader Xi Jinping had “walked away” from the climate crisis because he had skipped the COP26 summit.

China backtracked at the time, but ties appear to have thawed ahead of long-awaited bilateral talks next week.

“The release of this joint statement shows that cooperation is the only choice for China and the US,” Xie said.

Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s executive vice president for the European Green Deal, welcomed the announcement.

“It shows that the United States and China can work together on issues that transcend other conflicts,” Timmermans of the conference told Al Jazeera.

“Humanity is facing the biggest challenge we have ever had, which is the climate crisis, and now China and the US are going to work more closely together,” he said. “And that’s totally in line with what we have to do here at COP, so I really welcome this joint statement, I think that’s good news for us.”

UN chief Antonio Guterres said the US-China initiative was an “important step” in the fight against climate change.

The news follows the release of a United Nations final draft communication – which has been praised for highlighting the need to end fossil fuel subsidies for the first time, has been criticized for its lack of liability provisions and vague commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

On Tuesday, the Climate Action Tracker research group noted in a report that under current climate promises, the average global temperature will warm up to 2.4C by 2100 – a level that would be catastrophic.

Britain’s Alok Sharma, the COP26 president, acknowledged that “significant issues remain unresolved.”

“My big, big request from all of you is to please come armed with the currency of compromise,” he told negotiators.

“What we agree on in Glasgow will determine the future for our children and grandchildren, and I know we will not want to fail them.”

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