China and the United States vowed on Wednesday to work together to accelerate climate action this decade, in a surprising new pact in the face of global warming that is already causing disasters around the world.
The announcement came as the crunch COP26 summit in Glasgow entered its pivotal final days, with negotiators grappling over ways to limit global warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
“This document makes strong statements about the alarming science, the emissions gap and the urgent need to act faster to close that gap,” US special envoy John Kerry told reporters in a startling announcement.
“It is committed to a series of key actions this decade when needed.”
The plan is light on concrete goals but heavy on political symbolism at a conference that started with the US and China – the world’s two biggest emitters – seemingly at odds.
Last week, US President Joe Biden criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision not to attend the Glasgow summit, saying China was “running away”.
China then hit back, but ties appear to have thawed ahead of highly anticipated bilateral talks next week.
On Wednesday, envoys from both the US and China emphasized cooperation between their countries and said they agreed to put aside other disagreements to work on climate change.
“Both sides recognize that there is a gap between current efforts and the goals of the Paris Agreement, so we will jointly strengthen climate action,” said Beijing’s longtime climate envoy Xie Zhenhua.
‘Series and urgency’
A document outlining the agreement includes a focus on reducing methane emissions, which Kerry described as the “fastest and most effective way to limit warming.”
It says the two sides will meet regularly to “address the climate crisis”.
The document also highlights the need to boost emissions efforts in the near term, with scientists warning that emissions efforts before 2030 are crucial to halting catastrophic global warming.
The statement said both countries “recognize the gravity and urgency of the climate crisis”.
“They are determined to address it through their respective accelerated actions in the critical decade of the 2020s,” the document said.
China and the US are the two largest emitters in the world and together account for nearly 40 percent of all carbon pollution.
The US has already said it plans to be carbon neutral by 2050, while China last month announced its intention to reach net-zero emissions by 2060.
The 2015 Paris climate agreement obliges countries to work to limit global temperature increases to between 1.5°C and 2°C through sweeping emissions reductions.
The United Nations said all countries’ emissions-reducing plans, taken together, are currently set to warm the Earth by 2.7°C by 2100.
UN chief Antonio Guterres welcomed the US-China pact.
“Tackling the climate crisis requires international cooperation and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction,” he said on Twitter.
Negotiators are in Glasgow to work out how to meet the degree limits of the Paris Agreement as countries around the world are ravaged by increasingly severe floods, droughts and storms linked to rising temperatures.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said countries have “no excuse” for failure.
On Wednesday, the draft “decisions” were released, which were the first real indication of where the nations stand for 10 days of in-depth technical discussions.
The text, which is subject to change during ministerial debates, called on countries to “review and strengthen” their decarbonization plans by next year, rather than by 2025 as previously agreed.
The Paris agreement includes a “ratchet” mechanism that requires countries to update emissions plans every five years.
But several major issuers missed the 2020 deadline for submitting new plans, known as nationally determined contributions. Others submitted plans that were no more ambitious — or even less — than their original plans.
Vulnerable countries say the next deadline, in 2025, is too far to achieve essential emission reductions in the short term.
“Rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions” were needed to avert the worst effects of heating, the text said.
In what observers said was an “important first mention” of the fuels causing global warming, the draft summit called on countries to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies”.
Last week, more than 100 countries — but not China — signed a pledge to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)