The United States and China are the world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Now the two superpowers have unveiled a joint deal to ramp up cooperation tackling climate change, including by cutting methane emissions, phasing out coal consumption, and protecting current and future forests.
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, announced the new agreement’s framework at COP26, the U.N. climate conference being held in Scotland. Both billed it as a way to end the summit on a successful note. The head of the United Nations conference, Alok Sharma, warned that climate commitments so late in the conference would do “too little to tame global warming” and urged countries to “get to work” over the remaining two days.
The joint declaration said China would begin phasing out its coal consumption during the five years from 2026-30 and would cut emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. Speaking through an interpreter, Xie Zhenhua told reporters the deal would see China strengthen its emissions-cutting targets. “Both sides will work jointly and with other parties to ensure a successful COP26 and to facilitate an outcome that is both ambitious and balanced,” Xie said.
“Together we set out our support for a successful COP26, including certain elements which will promote ambition,” Kerry said at the same news conference about the deal between Washington and Beijing. “Every step matters right now and we have a long journey ahead of us.”
This is a very positive outcome of Glasgow!
China 🇨🇳 and US 🇺🇸 agree to boost climate cooperation.
Will work together in many different areas to reach the 1,5 degree goal. Bravo John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua!https://t.co/kBGIgVxreD pic.twitter.com/FIp7aJY5YR
— Erik Solheim (@ErikSolheim) November 10, 2021
Securing the deal is a political victory for President Joe Biden, who’s sought to restore Washington’s leadership on climate after Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement. President Biden signed an Executive Order for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Agreement soon after his inauguration ceremony.
“In the area of climate change, there is more agreement between China and the U.S. than there is divergence,” China’s top climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua said. “We hope that this joint declaration can make China-U.S. contribution to the success of COP26.” With @KarlMathiesen
— Stuart Lau (@StuartKLau) November 10, 2021
Despite the progress, the negotiations are still likely to be fierce. The goal is to keep alive hopes of capping global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, which remained far out of reach given current pledges to cut emissions. On Tuesday, the Climate Action Tracker research group said all national pledges submitted so far to cut greenhouse gases by 2030 would, if fulfilled, allow the Earth’s temperature to rise 2.4C by 2100.
What is #realzero? Real zero = Net zero – offsetting
We need to stop climate pollution, as it happens, at its source. No delays that cover-up polluting business-as-usual.
— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) November 10, 2021
Greenpeace dismissed the draft as an inadequate response to the climate crisis, calling it “a polite request that countries maybe, possibly, do more next year”.