2 nations to step up emissions reductions | #cybersecurity | #conferences

GLASGOW, Scotland — The world’s top carbon polluters, China and the United States, agreed Wednesday to increase their cooperation and speed up action to rein in climate-damaging emissions, signaling a mutual effort on global warming at a time of tension over their other disputes.

In back-to-back news conferences at U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and U.S. counterpart John Kerry said the two countries would work together to accelerate the emissions reductions required to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

“It’s beneficial not only to our two countries but the world as a whole that two major powers in the world, China and the U.S., shoulder special international responsibilities and obligations,” Xie told reporters. “We need to think big and be responsible.”

“The steps we’re taking … can answer questions people have about the pace at which China is going, and help China and us to be able to accelerate our efforts,” Kerry said.

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

Governments agreed in Paris to jointly cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the global temperature rise “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit since preindustrial times, with a more stringent target of trying to keep warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit preferred.

Both sides recognize that there is a gap between efforts taken globally to reduce climate pollution and the goals of the Paris deal, Xie said.

“So we will jointly strengthen climate action and cooperation with respect to our respective national situations,” he said.

A U.S.-China bilateral agreement in 2014 gave a huge push to creation of the historic Paris accord the following year, but that cooperation stopped with the Trump administration, which pulled the U.S. out of the pact. The Biden administration brought the U.S. back into that deal, but has clashed with China on other issues such as cybersecurity, human rights and Chinese territorial claims.

“While this is not a game-changer in the way the 2014 U.S.-China climate deal was, in many ways it’s just as much of a step forward given the geopolitical state of the relationship,” said Thom Woodroofe, an expert in U.S.-China climate talks. “It means the intense level of U.S.-China dialogue on climate can now begin to translate into cooperation.”

The gesture of goodwill comes just days after President Joe Biden blamed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s failure to attend talks in person for the lack of more progress in climate negotiations.

The U.S. and China will also revive a working group that will “meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, focusing on enhancing concrete actions in this decade,” the declaration said.

Washington and Beijing intend to update the world on their new national targets for 2035 in 2025 — a move that is particularly significant for China. The declaration also said China will “make best efforts 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 about how to build on the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect vulnerable countries from the impacts of global warming.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the move “an important step in the right direction.”

Some experts noted that the deal was short on commitments that would significantly reduce heat-trapping gases.

“It’s a good sign that the world’s two biggest emitters can actually work together to face the biggest crisis of humanity, but there’s not a lot of meat there after the methane stuff,” said Byford Tsang, a China policy analyst for the European think tank E3G.

Earlier Wednesday, a draft of a larger deal being negotiated by almost 200 countries in Glasgow called for accelerating the phasing out of coal — the single biggest source of man-made emissions — although it set no timeline.

Though the document called for developed countries to double funds to help with adaptation, it did not mention a clear financial mechanism for addressing irreversible harm caused by climate change. Nor did it offer details on what support rich nations would be expected to deliver beyond 2025 — a shortfall that could prove a key sticking point for countries most threatened by rising temperatures.

“We should have been talking about increasing climate finance to align with the need, which is trillions of dollars,” said Brian O’Callaghan, leader of the Oxford University Economic Recovery Project, which advocates for a sustainable response to the coronavirus pandemic. The draft text, he said, offers “only peanuts for developing countries.”

One Biden administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak publicly, said there had been progress on ensuring that wealthy countries deliver on the long-standing but unfulfilled promise to deliver $100 billion a year to help developing nations adapt to climate impacts and build greener economies.


The draft agreement came on a day when Greta Thunberg and other youth activists implored the United Nations to declare a “Level 3 emergency” on climate change — the same level of urgency it gave to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many of us — especially those from small island states and indigenous communities — fear we will have become climate refugees by that time,” wrote the group of petitioners, many of whom had filed a separate 2019 petition seeking action, which was later dismissed. “We have no time to wait.”

The day’s official theme was transport, with a coalition of countries, states, cities and automakers signing an agreement to make all new vehicles carbon neutral by 2040 or sooner. Though California, Washington, Ford and General Motors all came on board, the United States was missing from the deal.

Setting deadlines for phasing out fossil fuels is highly sensitive to countries that still depend on them for economic growth, including China and India, and to major exporters of coal such as Australia. The future of coal is also a hot-button issue in the U.S., where a spat among Democrats has held up one of President Joe Biden’s signature climate bills.

Greenpeace International director Jennifer Morgan, a longtime climate talks observer, said the call in the draft to phase out coal would be a first in a U.N. climate deal, but the lack of a timeline would limit the pledge’s effectiveness.

“This isn’t the plan to solve the climate emergency. This won’t give the kids on the streets the confidence that they’ll need,” Morgan said.

The draft also expresses “alarm and concern” about how much Earth has already warmed and urges countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about half by 2030. Pledges so far from governments don’t add up to that frequently stated goal.

The draft is likely to change, but it doesn’t yet include full agreements on the three major goals that the U.N. set going into the negotiations: for rich nations to give poorer ones $100 billion a year in climate aid, to ensure that half of that money goes to adapting to worsening global warming, and the pledge to slash global carbon emissions by 2030.

It acknowledges “with regret” that rich nations have failed to live up to the climate finance pledge. Currently, they are providing around $80 billion a year, which poorer nations that need financial help both in developing green energy systems and adapting to the worst of climate change say isn’t enough.

Papua New Guinea Environment Minister Wera Mori said that given the lack of financial aid his country may “rethink” efforts to cut logging, coal mining and even going to the U.N. talks.

The draft says the world should try to achieve “net-zero [emissions] around mid-century,” a target that was endorsed by leaders of the Group of 20 biggest economies in a summit just before the Glasgow talks. That means requiring countries to pump only as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as can be absorbed again through natural or artificial means.

In a nod to one of the big issues for poorer countries, the draft vaguely “urges” developed nations to compensate developing countries for “loss and damage,” a phrase that some rich nations don’t like. But there are no concrete financial commitments.

Britain’s Alok Sharma, who is chairing the negotiations, acknowledged that “significant issues remain unresolved.”

“We all know what is at stake in these negotiations and the urgency of our task. In very human terms, what we agree in Glasgow will set the future for our children and grandchildren. And I know that we will not want to fail them,” Sharma said. “So, I request us all collectively to please roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Information for this article was contributed by Seth Borenstein, Ellen Knickmeyer, Frank Jordans and Helena Alves of The Associated Press; and by Brady Dennis, Sarah Kaplan, Steven Mufson, Michael Birnbaum, Dan Zak and Maxine Joselow of The Washington Post.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua (shown), announced Wednesday in Glasgow that their countries would cooperate to speed the reductions in emissions set forth in the 2015 Paris Agreement. “We need to think big and be responsible,” Xie said.
(AP/Alastair Grant)

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