COP26: China and US agree on climate cooperation

In a surprise announcement, China and the US have agreed on climate cooperation over the next decade.

China’s top negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, at COP26, 10 November 2021.
Photo: Livestream

The two countries released a joint declaration this evening at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.

It said the two sides would “recall their firm commitment to work together” to achieve the goal in the Paris agreement to limit temperature rise to 1.5C.

The document, A joint declaration on enhance climate action in the 2020s, called for increased efforts to close the “significant gap” that remains to achieve this ambition, which was at the heard of the Glasgow talks.

China’s top climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, said that on climate change “there is more agreement between China and US than divergence”.

He said China and the US needed to “think big and be responsible” and “actively address climate change”. Through cooperation, they would bring huge benefits to people around the world.

The declaration focused on controlling methane emissions, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases in the short term. The two countries agreed to meet in the first half of 2022 to discuss enhancing measurement and mitigation of methane.

On carbon dioxide emissions, they agreed to cooperate on policies for low-cost renewable energy, electricity distribution and transmission and energy efficiency.

China committed to phasing out coal consumption during the 15th five year plan and would make best efforts to accelerate this work. The US said it had set a target to decarbonise electricity by 2035.

The two countries would also cooperate on regulatory frameworks and environmental standards,

Earlier this week, China did not join the agreement, signed by more than 100 countries, to limit methane emissions. Today, China said it would develop a national plan to control and reduce the problem by the COP meeting next year.

The US climate envoy John Kerry, at COP26 on 10 November 2021.
Photo: Livestream

The US climate envoy, John Kerry, said the US and China had “no shortage of differences but on climate, cooperation was the only way to get this job done.

He said:

“The two largest economies in the world have agreed to work together to raise climate ambition in this decisive decade.

They had agreed to a basic framework for cooperation going forward, he said.

“With this announcement we have arrived at a new step, a roadmap for present and future collaboration on this issue.”

He said:

“This declaration is a step we can build on to close the gap.

“Every step matters right now and we have a long journey ahead of us.”

He said cooperation between China and the US would accelerate the reduction in emissions.

Lots of people were “ready to come to the table”, Mr Kerry said. Together they would be able to move things forward much faster.

“If we work hard, we can take this to a better level”.

The executive director of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan, welcomed the declaration but said both the US and China needed to show greater commitment in reaching climate goals.

“Ultimately their statement falls short of the call by the climate vulnerable countries demanding that nations come back to the table every year with greater ambition until the 1.5C gap is closed”.

The European Commission vice president, Frans Timmermans, said the cooperation was “really encouraging”

“It shows also that the US and China know this subject transcends other issues. And it certainly helps us here at COP to come to an agreement.”.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said the announcement was “an important step in the right direction.”

“COP26 is the biggest climate change conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015. Some 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming, by 2030.

Reporting COP26 has been made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers

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