China and the United States, the world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, have unveiled a deal to step up cooperation on tackling 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 fight climate change with “concrete actions”.
The two biggest carbon-polluting countries said their deal calls for “enhanced climate action in the 2020s” using the guidelines of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, including a new, stronger emissions reduction target by 2025.
The agreement calls for “concrete and pragmatic” regulations on decarbonisation, reducing methane emissions and combating deforestation.
“Both sides recognize 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 when announcing the agreement on Wednesday.
According to Xie, the deal would include “concrete plans” for reinforced action this decade and both countries would “work to finalize the Paris Agreement rulebook” at the UN climate summit in Glasgow.
The 2015 agreement obliges countries to work to limit global temperature increases to between 1.5 and 2 degrees through major emission reductions.
Xie said China and the US had held 30 virtual meetings in the past 10 months to come up with the initiative.
“As the two great powers in the world, China and the United States must take responsibility for working with other parties to tackle 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 have also agreed to cut methane emissions and that the agreement with China is a sign of support for a successful United Nations climate summit.
“Together we have expressed our support for a successful COP26, including certain elements that will foster ambition, but let me be clear that this statement is a step we can build on to close the gap… Every step is important now and we have a a long journey for us,” Kerry said at a news conference.
Last week, US President Joe Biden said Chinese leader Xi Jinping had “run away” from the climate crisis for skipping the COP26 summit.
China then hit back, but ties appear to have thawed ahead of highly anticipated bilateral talks next week.
“The publication of this joint statement shows that cooperation is the only choice for China and the US,” said Xie.
Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the European Commission 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 told Al Jazeera from the conference.
“Humanity is facing the greatest challenge we have ever faced, which is the climate crisis, and now China and the US are going to work more closely together,” he said. “And this is completely in line with what we need to do here at COP, so I’m really happy with this joint statement, I think it’s good news for us.”
UN chief Antonio Guterres said the initiative between the US and China is an “important step” in the fight against climate change.
I welcome today’s agreement between China and the US to work together to become more ambitious #ClimateAction in this decade.
Tackling the climate crisis requires international cooperation and solidarity, and that is an important step in the right direction. #COP26
— Antonio Guterres (@antonioguterres) Nov 10, 2021
The news follows the release of a final draft United Nations communiqué — which, while lauded for first emphasizing the need to end fossil fuel subsidies, has been criticized for lack of accountability provisions and vague commitments to curbing fossil fuels. greenhouse gas emissions.
On Tuesday, the research group Climate Action Tracker noted in a report that under current climate commitments, average global temperatures will rise to 2.4°C by 2100 — a level that would be catastrophic.
Britain’s COP26 president Alok Sharma acknowledged that “major issues remain unresolved”.
“My big, big question to all of you is to please come armed with the currency of a compromise,” he told the negotiators.
“What we agree in Glasgow will determine the future for our children and grandchildren, and I know we will not let them down.”