The US and China agree on the need for stronger climate commitments before Glasgow’s new round of international talks.
US and China, the world’s two largest carbon polluters, agreed to work with other countries to combat climate change.
Sunday’s joint statement followed two days of talks between Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and US counterpart John Kerry in Shanghai.
“The US and China are committed to working together and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which needs to be tackled with the gravity and urgency it deserves,” their statement said.
The two countries will also continue to negotiate “concrete steps to minimise emissions in 2020 to keep the temperature cap consistent with the Paris Agreement within reach,” she said.
Countries decided in Paris in 2015 to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
The US and China are the world’s top carbon polluters, pumping out almost half of the fossil fuel fumes that warm the planet’s atmosphere. Their cooperation is vital to the success of global efforts to curb climate change, but broken relations over human rights, trade, and China’s territorial claims to Taiwan and the South China Sea threatened such efforts.
Kerry’s trip to Shanghai marked a U.S. official’s highest-level trip to China since Joe Biden took office in January.
Biden, who said global warming is one of his top priorities, had the US join the Paris Climate Agreement in the first hours of his administration, undoing the withdrawal ordered by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The new US president also invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to a virtual summit on April 22-23 to discuss the topic.
The US and other countries are expected to announce more aggressive national plans for reducing carbon emissions before or during the conference, along with promising financial assistance to less developed nations for climate initiatives.
On Friday, while Kerry was still in Shanghai, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng signalled that China is unlikely to make any new promises at next week’s summit.
“These targets aren’t easily delivered for a big country with 1.4 billion inhabitants,” Le said during an interview with Beijing’s Associated Press news agency. “Some countries ask China to reach the targets sooner. I’m afraid this isn’t possible. “
On whether Xi would attend the summit, Le said, “The Chinese side is actively studying the problem.”
Xi said climate change “should not become a strategic chip, a target for attacking other countries or an excuse for trade barriers” during a video meeting with German and French leaders on Friday, although he called for closer cooperation on the subject, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Last year, Xi pledged China to achieve “carbon neutrality by 2060” and ensure peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Greenhouse gas emitters are also planning for November’s next UN climate summit in Glasgow, United Kingdom. The summit aims to relaunch global efforts to hold global temperatures below 1.5C, as agreed in the Paris Agreement.
According to the U.S.-China declaration, the Glasgow meeting “intends to build” their respective long-term strategies to achieve carbon neutrality.
Other near-term steps include boosting “international investment and finance” to help developed countries’ transition to green energy, as well as phasing out hydrofluorocarbon output and use, refrigeration fuels, air conditioners and aerosols.
Long-term actions to keep the temperature targets of the Paris Agreement “in control” include reducing pollution from manufacturing and power generation while increasing renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and climate-resistant agriculture.
Li Shuo, a policy advisor at Greenpeace East Asia, said Sunday’s joint statement demonstrated the US and China’s “unambiguous commitment” to tackling climate change and could “re-energize global climate momentum.”
“Shanghai’s tough meetings bear fruit. Let’s shift politics closer to where science needs us, “he said.
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