US, China pledge to boost climate cooperation at UN talks

By Seth Bornstein, Elaine Knickmeyer and Frank Jordans | News agency

GLASGO, Scotland – China and the United States, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, pledged on Wednesday to increase their cooperation on climate action despite their strong differences on other issues.

At back-to-back press conferences at the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow, Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and his US counterpart John Kerry said the two countries would work together to accelerate the emissions reductions needed to achieve temperature targets of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. they change.

“The bottom line of this is that the steps that we’re taking that we think can answer people’s questions about the pace at which China is going and helping China and we’re going to be able to accelerate our efforts,” Kerry said.

China has agreed for the first time to crack down on methane leaks, following the Biden administration’s efforts to curb greenhouse gases. Beijing and Washington agreed to share technology to reduce emissions.

Governments in Paris agreed to jointly reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, with a stricter goal of trying to keep warming to 1.5 Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) preferred.

Shih said both sides are aware that there is a gap between global efforts to reduce emissions and the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Therefore, we will jointly strengthen climate action and cooperation regarding our own national situations,” he said.

In a joint declaration, the two countries said they were “concerned” by recent scientific reports detailing progress in what they both call the “climate crisis”.

A bilateral agreement between the United States and China gave a major impetus to the creation of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, but that cooperation stalled with the Trump administration, which withdrew the United States from the agreement. The Biden administration brought the United States back into that deal, but it has clashed with China over other issues such as cybersecurity, human rights and Chinese territorial claims.

“While this is not a game changer in the way the 2014 US-China climate agreement was, in many ways it is a step forward given the geopolitical state of the relationship,” said Thom Woodroofe, an expert on US-China climate. talks. “This means that the intense level of US-China climate dialogue can now begin to translate into cooperation.”

The declaration said the two countries would form a bilateral working group that “will meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, with a focus on promoting concrete actions in this decade.”

Both Washington and Beijing intend to show the world their new 2035 National Goals in 2025 — a move of particular importance for China.

The announcement also said that China will “make every effort to accelerate” its plans to reduce coal consumption in the second half of this decade.

The announcement came as governments from around the world were negotiating in Glasgow how to build on the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect countries at risk from the effects of global warming.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the move as an “important step in the right direction”.

Some experts said the agreement lacked commitments that would significantly reduce greenhouse gases.

“It’s a good sign that the world’s two biggest emitting countries can work together to tackle humanity’s biggest crisis, but there isn’t much meat after methane,” said Byford Tsang, China policy analyst for the European think tank E3G.

Earlier Wednesday, a draft of a larger deal being negotiated by nearly 200 countries in Glasgow called for an acceleration of the phase-out of coal – the largest single source of man-made emissions – although it did not specify a timetable.

Setting deadlines for phasing out fossil fuels is very sensitive to countries that still depend on them for economic growth, including China and India, and for major coal exporters such as Australia. The future of coal is also a hot issue in the United States, where a row among Democrats has stalled one of President Joe Biden’s climate bills.

Jennifer Morgan, director of Greenpeace International, a long-time observer of the climate talks, said the draft’s call to phase out coal would be the first in a UN climate agreement, but that the lack of a timetable would limit the pledge’s effectiveness.

“This is not a plan to resolve the climate emergency. This is not going to give children on the streets the confidence they will need,” Morgan said.

The draft also expresses “concern and concern” about how much the Earth is already warming and urges countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions by nearly half by 2030. The pledges made by governments so far do not add much to this stated goal.

The draft is likely to change, but it does not yet include full agreements on the three main goals the United Nations set in the negotiations: that rich countries give poor countries $100 billion a year in climate aid, to ensure that half of that money goes to adaptation to worsening global warming, and a pledge to reduce global carbon emissions by 2030.

It acknowledges “with regret” that rich countries have failed to meet their climate finance pledges. They currently provide about $80 billion annually, which poorer countries that need financial assistance in developing green energy systems and adapting to the worst of climate change say is insufficient.

Papua New Guinea’s Environment Minister Wera Morey said that given the lack of financial aid, his country might “rethink” efforts to reduce logging, coal mining and even come to the UN talks.
The EU’s climate chief, Frans Timmermans, was more upbeat.

“We are ready and willing to make sure that we meet the highest levels of ambition possible, leading to urgent global action,” he said.

The draft states that the world should try to achieve “net zero (emissions) in the middle of the century”, a goal endorsed by G-20 leaders at a summit just before the Glasgow talks. This means requiring countries to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as much as it can be absorbed back through natural or artificial means.

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