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US and China Pledge to Increase Cooperation at UN Climate Talks

US and China Pledge to Increase Cooperation at UN Climate Talks
Source: Climate Home News

China and the United States, the world’s top carbon polluters, agreed Wednesday to step up collaboration and accelerate efforts to reduce climate-damaging emissions, suggesting a joint effort on global warming at a time when the two countries are at odds over other issues.

During back-to-back press appearances at the United Nations climate meetings in Glasgow, Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and US counterpart John Kerry said the two countries will work together to expedite the emissions reductions necessary to fulfill the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement’s targets.

“It’s beneficial not only to our two countries, but to the world as a whole,” Xie told reporters. “It’s beneficial not only to our two countries, but to the world as a whole that two major powers in the world, China and the United States, shoulder special international responsibilities and obligations.” “We need to think large and be responsible,” says the author.

“The initiatives we’re doing… can answer doubts people have about China’s speed of development and assist China and us accelerate our efforts,” Kerry said.

For the first time, China committed to take action against methane leaks, following the lead of the Biden administration’s efforts to reduce the potent greenhouse gas. Beijing and Washington have agreed to exchange emission-reduction technologies.

Governments decided in Paris to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming “far below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, with a more rigorous goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) desired.

According to Xie, all parties accept that global efforts to decrease climate pollution fall short of the Paris Agreement’s targets.

“As a result, we will work together to promote climate action and collaboration in our different national contexts,” he stated.

A bilateral deal between the United States and China in 2014 aided the establishment of the historic Paris Agreement the following year, but that collaboration came to an end with the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the pact. The Biden administration re-entered the pact, but has had disagreements with China on other matters such as cybersecurity, human rights, and Chinese territorial claims.

“While this isn’t a gamechanger in the same sense that the 2014 US-China climate accord was, given the geopolitical status of the relationship, it’s just as much of a step forward,” said Thom Woodroofe, an expert on US-China climate discussions. “It suggests that the strong degree of climate communication between the United States and China can now begin to convert into cooperation.”

The act of goodwill comes just days after President Joe Biden blamed the lack of progress in climate discussions on Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unwillingness to attend meetings in person.

According to the declaration, the US and China would resurrect a working group that will “meet on a regular basis to address the climate problem and advance the multilateral process, with an emphasis on boosting tangible efforts in this decade.”

In 2025, both Washington and Beijing plan to inform the world on their new national objectives for 2035, a step that will be especially crucial for China. In the second half of this decade, China would “make best efforts to expedite” its plans to cut coal usage, according to the announcement.

The declaration came as world leaders met in Glasgow to discuss ways to expand on the Paris Agreement’s commitment to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard vulnerable nations from the effects of global warming.

The measure was hailed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as “an important step in the right direction.”

Some scientists pointed out that the agreement lacked promises to considerably reduce heat-trapping gases.

“It’s a positive indicator that the world’s two greatest emitters can genuinely work together to confront humanity’s biggest challenge,” said Byford Tsang, a China policy specialist with the European think tank E3G. “But there’s not a lot of meat there after the methane stuff,” he added.

Earlier Wednesday, a draft of a wider agreement being discussed in Glasgow by almost 200 countries called for speeding up the phase-out of coal, the single largest source of man-made emissions, though it did not specify a date.

Setting dates for phase-out of fossil fuels is extremely sensitive to nations that still rely on them for economic development, such as China and India, as well as significant coal exporters like Australia. Coal’s future is also a heated topic in the United States, where a squabble among Democrats has stalled one of President Joe Biden’s major climate initiatives.

The draft’s demand to phase out coal, according to Greenpeace International head Jennifer Morgan, a long-time climate negotiations watcher, would be a first in a United Nations climate treaty, but the lack of a deadline would restrict the pledge’s usefulness.

“This isn’t a strategy for dealing with the climate crisis. “This isn’t going to instill confidence in the youngsters on the streets,” Morgan added.

The document also expresses “alarm and worry” about how much the Earth has already warmed, and calls on governments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by half by 2030. Government pledges so far do not add up to that commonly mentioned aim.

The draft is likely to change, but it does not yet include full agreements on the three major goals set by the United Nations going into the negotiations: rich countries giving poorer countries $100 billion in climate aid each year, ensuring that half of that money goes toward adapting to worsening global warming, and slashing global carbon emissions by 2030.

It admits, “with sadness,” that affluent countries have failed to meet their climate funding commitments. They now provide roughly $80 billion per year, which poorer countries believe is insufficient to help them create green energy systems and prepare to the worst effects of climate change.

Because of a lack of financial help, Papua New Guinea’s Environment Minister, Wera Mori, has indicated that his nation may “rethink” attempts to reduce logging, coal mining, and even attending United Nations discussions.

The draft states that the world should strive for “net-zero (emissions) around mid-century,” a goal approved by leaders of the world’s 20 largest countries at a meeting held immediately before the Glasgow discussions. This entails mandating countries to release only as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as can be absorbed naturally or artificially.

The draft vaguely “urges” affluent countries to pay developing countries for “loss and harm,” a language that some rich countries dislike. This is a hint to one of the major difficulties for poorer countries. However, no financial obligations have been made.

The discussions’ chair, Alok Sharma of the United Kingdom, recognized that “major concerns remain unsolved.”

He told negotiators, “My major, huge ask of all of you is to please come prepared with the currency of compromise.” “What we agree on in Glasgow will shape our children’s and grandchildren’s futures, and I am confident that we will not want to let them down.”