The United States and China agreed on Wednesday during the UN climate talks in Glasgow to work together to achieve the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The two countries are the world’s largest carbon polluters. They agreed to accelerate emissions reductions needed to meet the 2015 temperature targets.
At the 2015 summit, some world governments agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to prevent the rise in global temperature and keep it well below the 3.6 Fahrenheit limit.
In a joint delay, the two countries said they will establish a working group that “will meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, with an emphasis on strengthening concrete actions in this decade.” Washington and Beijing also agreed to share technology to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said he acknowledged there is a gap between global efforts to reduce emissions and the goals of the Paris deal.
“So we will jointly strengthen climate action and cooperation regarding our respective national situations,” he said.
A draft of a larger deal between nearly 200 countries expresses “alarm and concern” about how much the Earth has already warmed. It calls on countries to halve carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Promises from governments so far have not matched that goal.
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During the UN climate talks in Glasgow, Zhenhua and US climate envoy John Kerry said the two countries are working together.
“The whole point of this is that the steps we’re taking can answer the questions people have about the pace at which China is going and help China and us accelerate our efforts,” Kerry said.
China first agreed to address the methane leaks, following the Biden administration’s efforts to curb the potent greenhouse gas.
In a joint statement, the two countries said they are “alarmed” by recent scientific reports detailing the progress of what they both call “the climate crisis.”
A bilateral agreement between the US and China gave a huge boost to the landmark 2015 Paris agreement, but that cooperation ended with the Trump administration, which withdrew the US from the pact. The Biden administration has rejoined the US in that deal, but has clashed with China over other issues, such as cybersecurity, human rights and Chinese territorial claims.
“While this isn’t a game-changer like the 2014 US-China climate deal was, in many ways it’s just as much of a step forward given the geopolitical state of the relationship,” said Thom Woodroofe, an expert on US climate change. and China. conversations. “It means that the intense level of dialogue between the US and China on climate can now translate into cooperation.”
Both Washington and Beijing plan to update the world on their new national targets for 2035 by 2025 – a move that is especially important for China.
The statement also said China will do “everything to accelerate its plans to reduce coal consumption in the second half of this decade”.
The announcement came as governments from around the world negotiated in Glasgow how to build on the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect vulnerable countries from the effects of global warming.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the move “an important step in the right direction”.
Some experts said the deal contained too few commitments that would significantly reduce the gases that trap heat.
“It’s a good sign that the world’s two biggest emitters can actually work together to face humanity’s greatest crisis, but there isn’t much meat left after the methane stuff,” said Byford Tsang, a policy analyst for China. for the European think tank E3G. .
Earlier Wednesday, a draft of the larger deal called for accelerating the phase-out of coal – the largest source of man-made emissions – though it set no timeline.
Setting deadlines for phasing out fossil fuels is highly sensitive to countries that still depend on them for economic growth, including China and India, and to major coal exporters such as Australia. The future of coal is also a hot-button issue in the US, where a feud among Democrats has held up one of President Joe Biden’s signature climate laws.
Jennifer Morgan, director of Greenpeace International, an observer on climate talks, said the draft call to phase out coal would be a first in a UN climate accord, but the lack of a timeline would limit the promise’s effectiveness.
“This is not the plan to solve the climate crisis. This is not going to give the kids on the streets the confidence they need,” Morgan said.
The draft is likely to change, but it does not yet contain a full agreement on the three main goals the UN has set in the negotiations: rich countries should give the poorer $100 billion a year in climate aid to ensure that half of the that money goes towards adapting to worsening global warming and the promise to reduce global carbon emissions by 2030.
It acknowledges “with regret” that rich countries have not kept their promise on climate finance. Currently, they provide about $80 billion a year, which poorer countries in need of financial assistance, both in developing green energy systems and adapting to the worst climate change, say is not enough.