The US and China have made a rare joint statement to work together on climate change, which the Chinese special envoy described after the UN COP26 summit on Wednesday as an “existential crisis” but did not move to the country’s goals not.
China’s Xie Zhenhua said climate change was becoming increasingly urgent and serious. By working together, the world’s largest economies – and the biggest polluters – will “bring more benefit to our two people”.
The US and China have said they will continue beyond COP26 to discuss concrete and pragmatic actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions.
“Our two teams reached an agreement this afternoon on a joint statement,” he said in a press briefing that took place before a separate event by his American counterpart, John Kerry.
Kerry said the two countries “worked in good faith and found common ground” with a shared interest in success at COP26.
US President Joe Biden only last week criticized Chinese and Russian leaders for failing to attend UN climate talks in Glasgow.
Kerry said the US and China have their differences, but cooperation is the “only way to get the job done”. Climate change was not discretionary and was rooted in science, he noted.
The countries were also negotiating a virtual summit to be held between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kerry said.
“We need to think big and be responsible,” Xie said earlier, also emphasizing that cooperation on climate change is the only choice.
The two countries said they intend to develop their respective long-term strategies aimed at net zero greenhouse gas emissions and carbon neutrality.
Kerry said he believes China “may have reached a peak” in its emissions, and he hopes it will try to accelerate it, ahead of its target.
China has committed itself to peaking emissions and then declining by 2030, with a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.
Kerry said the agreement included “the phasing out of undiminished coal in this decade as soon as possible”.
Xie said a “consensus” had been reached on a series of critical issues surrounding the Paris Climate Agreement to limit the rise in temperatures to below 2C and ideally 1.5C.
These included national land targets, the so-called Paris Framework, and rich countries’ climate finance for developing countries. Both sides will “work together with other parties to ensure successful COP26”.
They also intended to “maximize international investment and financing to support the transition from carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based energy to green, low-carbon and renewable energy in developing countries.”
This included building a global carbon market.
However, China intended to develop its own national plan for methane, the powerful heating gas.
The US and EU last week promised to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 from 2020 levels, while China refused to accede to the treaty.
China and the US will also each implement to phase out the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons.
On deforestation, both sides have simply committed themselves to “strengthening goals” in this area.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the agreement, saying “tackling the climate crisis requires international cooperation and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction”.
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