- COP26 concept asks countries to upgrade climate targets by 2022
- “Getting Started” With Stronger Promises, Says Conference Chair
- Draft also highlights the need to reduce fossil fuel use
- Negotiators try to agree final text by Friday
GLASGOW, Nov. 10 (Reuters) – The United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, unveiled a deal to step up cooperation on tackling climate change, including by cutting methane emissions, reducing coal consumption phase out and protect forests.
US climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua announced the framework agreement at the UN climate conference in Scotland. Both saw it as a way to tilt the top towards success.
Earlier, the UN conference head noted that climate commitments so far in the talks would do too little to tame global warming and urged countries to “go to work” for the remaining two days.
“Together, we have expressed our support for a successful COP26, including certain elements that will advance the ambition,” Kerry told a news conference about the Washington-Beijing deal. “Every step is important now and we have a long journey ahead of us.”
Speaking through an interpreter, Xie told reporters the deal would mean China would strengthen its emissions reduction targets. “Both sides will collaborate and work with other parties to ensure a successful COP26 and enable a result that is both ambitious and balanced,” said Xie.
The joint statement said China would begin phasing out its coal consumption over the five years from 2026-30 and reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane.
Until the announcement, climate talks observers had been concerned that Chinese President Xi Jinping would not attend in person, and Beijing had made no substantial new commitments beyond its previous goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. China’s climate plan also ignored its large methane emissions, largely linked to its sprawling coal industry.
Securing the deal is a political victory for US President Joe Biden, who sought to restore Washington’s leadership on climate after former President Donald Trump withdrew from a global pact to fight it.
To close the deal, Washington sidelined some disputes with Beijing, including humanitarian issues such as the treatment of China’s ethnic Uyghurs.
“We’re honest about the differences. We definitely know what they are and we’ve articulated them,” Kerry told reporters. “But that’s not my job here. My job is to be the climate man and stay focused on trying to move the climate agenda forward.”
Frans Timmermans, head of EU climate policy, told Reuters that the US-China agreement offered room for hope.
“It’s really encouraging to see those countries that disagreed in so many areas have come to an agreement on what is the greatest challenge facing humanity today,” he said. “And it certainly helps us come to an agreement here at COP.”
Durwood Zaelke, chair of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, agreed.
“The US-China agreement is the breakthrough that should set the tone for an ambitious COP,” he said.
An initial draft of the COP26 deal, released earlier in the day, had met with mixed reactions from climate activists and experts. The draft implicitly acknowledged that current commitments were insufficient to avert a climate catastrophe, and asked countries to “review and strengthen” their targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by the end of next year.
The next two days of negotiations were probably still fierce. The goal is to keep hopes alive to limit global temperatures to 1.5 decrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, which has been well out of reach given current commitments to cut emissions.
That ambitious target was set during the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015. Since then, there has been mounting scientific evidence that crossing the 1.5°C threshold would cause significantly greater sea-level rises, floods, droughts, wildfires and storms than the current ones, with irreversible consequences.
On Tuesday, the research group Climate Action Tracker said all national commitments made so far to reduce greenhouse gases by 2030 would increase the Earth’s temperature by 2.4°C by 2100, if fulfilled. read more
Greenpeace dismissed the draft as an inadequate response to the climate crisis, calling it “a polite request that countries might do more next year”.
Some developed countries pointed the finger at major polluters such as China, India and Russia. Most poorer countries accused the wealthy world of failing to deliver on promises of financial aid to face the ravages of climate change.
While delegations watched the wording of the final statement, another pledge in Glasgow saw a group of countries, companies and cities commit to phasing out fossil fuel vehicles by 2040.
On Wednesday, the conference also reached agreements between countries and companies to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, which account for nearly a quarter of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
The final text of the COP26 meeting will not be legally binding, but will bear the political weight of the nearly 200 countries that have signed the Paris Agreement.
For now, the draft evades demands from poorer countries for guarantees that rich countries provide much more money to help them curb their emissions and cope with the effects of rising temperatures.
It “urges developed countries to “urgently scale up” aid to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and calls for more funding through grants rather than loans, which poor countries burdened with more debt.
But it doesn’t include a new plan to deliver that money, and climate-vulnerable island nations said they would push for final negotiations for clearer commitments.
“The level of ambition needed to keep 1.5 within reach is not yet reflected in the financial texts,” Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi, chairman of the least developed countries group, said at the conference.
Poor countries are pushing for stricter rules on future financing after rich countries failed to deliver on their 2009 pledge to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020, and now expect to deliver it three years late.
additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Bhargav Acharya; Written by Kate Abnett, Gavin Jones, Kevin Liffey; Editing by Barbara Lewis, Richard Valdmanis and David Gregorio
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