SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The United States and China, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, agreed to cooperate to tackle climate change urgently, just days before President Joe Biden is hosting a virtual summit of world leaders to discuss the issue.
The deal was struck by US special climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua during two days of talks in Shanghai last week, according to a joint statement.
The two countries “are committed to cooperate with each other and with other countries to deal with the climate crisis, which must be approached with the seriousness and urgency it demands,” the statement said.
China is the world’s largest carbon emitter, followed by the United States. The two countries pump out nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes that heat the planet’s atmosphere. Their cooperation is key to the success of global climate change efforts, but China’s frayed human rights, trade and land claims ties to Taiwan and the South China Sea have threatened to undermine these efforts.
In a meeting with reporters in Seoul on Sunday, Kerry said the wording of the statement was “strong” and the two countries agreed on “critical elements on where we need to go”. But the former secretary of state said: “I’ve learned in diplomacy that you don’t put your back on words, you put actions. We all need to see what’s going on.”
Noting that China is the world’s largest user of coal, Kerry said he and Chinese officials have had many discussions on how to accelerate a global energy transition. “I have never hesitated to express our view shared by many, many people that it is imperative to reduce coal everywhere,” he said.
Biden invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the April 22-23 summit. The United States and other countries are expected to announce more ambitious national carbon emission reduction targets before or at the meeting, while pledging financial support for less wealthy countries’ climate efforts.
It is unclear to what extent Kerry’s visit to China would promote U.S.-China cooperation on climate issues.
While Kerry was still in Shanghai, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng signaled on Friday that China is unlikely to make any new commitments at next week’s summit.
“For a large country of 1.4 billion people, these goals are not easy to achieve,” Le said in an interview with The Associated Press in Beijing. “Some countries are asking China to meet the targets sooner. I am afraid that is not very realistic.”
In a video meeting with German and French leaders on Friday, Xi said climate change “should not become a geopolitical chip, a target to attack other countries, or an excuse for trade barriers,” he said. reported the official Xinhua news agency.
As to whether Xi will join the summit, Le said that “the Chinese side is actively studying the matter.”
The joint statement said the two countries are “eagerly awaiting” next week’s summit. Kerry said on Sunday that “we really hope (Xi) participates” at the summit, but it is up to China to make that decision.
Biden, who has said tackling global warming is one of his highest priorities, had the United States accede to the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement in the early hours of his presidency, overturning the withdrawal American ordered by his predecessor Donald Trump.
The main emitters of greenhouse gases are gearing up for the next UN climate summit to be held in Glasgow, UK, in November. The summit aims to revive global efforts to keep rising global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), as agreed in the Paris agreement.
According to the US-China statement, the two countries would strengthen “their respective actions and cooperate in multilateral processes, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.”
He said the two countries also intend to develop their respective long-term strategies ahead of the Glasgow conference and take “appropriate steps to maximize international investment and funding for” energy transition in the countries. in development.
Xi announced last year that China will be carbon neutral by 2060 and plans to peak its emissions by 2030. In March, the Communist Party of China pledged to cut emissions by 18%. carbon per unit of economic output over the next five years, in line with its target for the previous five-year period. But environmentalists say China needs to do more.
Biden has pledged that the United States will transition to an emission-free electricity sector within 14 years, and have a completely emission-free economy by 2050. Kerry is also pushing other nations to pledge neutrality. carbon by then.