Story at a glance

  • The U.S. and China made history by reaching an agreement to cooperate to combat climate change.
  • The two countries are the world’s largest carbon emitters.
  • Hopes for reaching an agreement were in doubt due to heightened tensions between the countries, with the U.S. condemning human rights violations in China.

The United States and China are "committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries" to combat climate change together, according to a joint statement from the State Department and China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment issued on Saturday.

The agreement comes ahead of President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate this week to address the subject and was reached through two days of talks between U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry and Chinese special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua.

On the road to cutting emissions, the U.S. and China will be “enhancing their respective actions and cooperating in multilateral processes, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement,” the statement reads. 

Going forward, both will finance the transition of the respective countries to low-carbon, renewable energy, enact policies to decarbonize the power industry, and deploy low-carbon, energy-efficient infrastructure and transportation, among other measures.


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China is the world’s largest carbon emitter, closing followed by the U.S. The U.S. had left the Paris climate agreement under President Trump, but Biden reentered the agreement with an executive order on his first day in office.

While the agreement is a historic moment in the relationship between the two countries, there was great concern that numerous feuds would block the accord.

There have been heightened tensions as the U.S. has spoken out against China’s recent human rights violations in relation to its detention and treatment of Uyghur Muslims, its suppression and arrest of Hong Kong protesters, and trade disputes.

Kerry, the former secretary of State, recognized the complexity of such talks but highlighted the necessity for cooperation between the two countries. 

“We recognize that China ... is essential to resolving this crisis," he said.

However, he acknowledged that going forward, the ultimate attestation of the agreement will be tangible acts.

“I learned in diplomacy that you don’t put your back on the words, you put on actions,” he said. “We all need to see what happens.”


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Published on Apr 19, 2021