The United States and China have issued a rare joint declaration of cooperation on climate change, which the Chinese special envoy at the UN COP26 summit described as an “existential crisis”.
In a high-risk move during the final days of the summit, Chinese and US climate envoys indicated that they have found common ground on some of the thornier issues that irritate negotiators.
“We both see that the challenge of climate change is existential and grave,” said Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua. “In the area of climate change, there is more agreement between China and the United States than disagreement.”
Kerry said the two countries worked “in good faith and found common ground” with a shared interest in COP26 success.
“Now the world’s two largest economies have agreed to work together to raise climate ambitions in this pivotal decade,” Kerry said.
The joint US-China statement sends a political signal to other nations that the world’s two largest emitters will push for a strong end result at the COP, even as negotiators are mired in late-night discussions in the final days of the two-week summit.
Key outstanding issues include the rules for a global carbon market, the format for countries to report their emissions, and the level of climate-related financial assistance provided by rich countries to developing countries.
The US-China statement contained little in the way of new emissions commitments, other than China saying it would start addressing its methane emissions. Reducing methane, a powerful heating gas, was a key US priority at COP26, even though China hasn’t gotten to the point of joining the US-EU pact to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
Yet it represents a détente after the US and China looked at loggerheads last week when China said it had not been given the opportunity to make a video statement at the rally of world leaders and US President Joe. Biden complained that China “didn’t show up” in Glasgow.
The fine print of the joint statement also suggests that the two sides have agreed on some of the outstanding issues in the negotiations, such as setting five-year climate goals rather than ten-year goals.
At the same time, the negotiators say that China has changed its position and it is now … uphold a key clause in the COP’s “cover text”, which urges countries to update their emissions targets by the end of 2022.
As the 197 countries that approved the 2015 Paris climate deal struggle to reach consensus by Friday’s deadline on the rules for implementing that pact, observers said the US-China statement could give a boost. to interviews.
Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G, an independent European think-tank, said the statement “puts the United States and China in trouble” over the outcome of the Glasgow summit.
“He’s pretty politically flashy for a cop,” Mabey said. “This is a big show decision, to go for a joint press conference, in the penultimate days of trading.”
In the statement, both the United States and China said they will continue to discuss concrete and pragmatic actions in 2020 to reduce emissions.
China has raised doubts in the past about the US’s ability to meet its big climate goals, particularly because the Biden administration has been unable to pass key climate legislation.
The United States has previously urged China to cut emissions first. Beijing’s goal is to reach peak emissions “before 2030”.
In a press conference on Wednesday evening, US climate envoy John Kerry drew an analogy to the nuclear weapons deal between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986, pointing out that both the United States and China have to gain from. cooperation to reduce emissions.
“We can’t achieve our goals if we don’t all work together,” Kerry said. “We must increase ambition and we must act in this decisive decade”.
While both sides praised the deal, there was one small element that already seemed to collapse on Wednesday night. The Chinese envoy spent 20 minutes longer than the agreed time on stage, keeping Kerry pending guidelines. “I’m sorry,” Xie said.
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