Energy & Environment

US, China release joint climate statement at UN summit

The U.S. and China on Wednesday released a joint statement expressing the need to step up climate action this decade, officials from both countries announced. 

In separate press conferences on Wednesday during a United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, each country’s climate envoy announced the agreement, a copy of which was later released by the State Department.

The statement said that the two sides plan to cooperate on regulations relating to cutting the release of planet-warming gases this decade, policies to encourage electrification of parts of the economy that use energy, and deployment of technology that captures emissions when fossil fuels are burned or pulled them from the air. 

These technologies, which include carbon capture and storage, can be controversial, as past projects have had cost and mechanical issues, and they can prolong fossil fuel use. 

It also said they plan to collaborate on reducing emissions of a gas called methane, which is a more powerful climate-warmer than carbon dioxide and comes from activities including oil and gas development and agriculture.

As the U.S. has recently released its own strategy for taking on methane, the agreement said that China will likewise develop a national plan for methane.

The two countries also say they’ll develop additional measures both nationally and subnationally, and will meet during the first half of next year on methane standards for fossil fuels and landfills and incentive programs for agriculture. 

The statement further commits Beijing and Washington to the joint creation of a “Working Group on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s.” This group would hold regular meetings on the climate crisis over the decade to develop solutions.

And they reiterated support for a goal for developed countries to mobilize a total of $100 billion in climate finance toward developing countries annually through 2025, according to the statement.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told reporters that the agreement “makes a statement about the imperative” for the world’s top two emitters to cooperate.

“It commits to a series of important actions, not in the long term, not in the future, but now,” Kerry added. 

And he praised the action on methane, noting that it has been identified as “the single fastest and most effective way to limit warming.” 

Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period and even more powerful in the short term, so experts have pointed to reductions in this gas as a rapid way to lessen the planet’s warming. 

Beijing “has committed to develop by COP27 next year a comprehensive and ambitious national action plan on methane,” Kerry said Wednesday. He did not say whether China would be joining an existing  global methane pledge, which includes the U.S., the European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom.

China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said the two countries “shoulder special international responsibilities and obligations” because of their role as world powers.

“We need to think big and be responsible,” Xie said.  “We need to actively address climate change and through cooperation, bring more benefit to both our two peoples and peoples around the world.”

It comes as tensions between the two countries have been on display at the climate summit. The U.S. has repeatedly said that Chinese commitments are not strong enough and criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision not to attend the conference. 

Meanwhile, China has argued that actions are louder than words and contended that it deserves more time to use fossil fuels to develop compared to Western countries that have been using these fuels for longer. 

But the two countries previously released a joint statement in April. 

China is the world’s largest emitter, while the U.S. is the second largest, though the U.S. has more emissions than China per capita. 

Kerry said Wednesday that the fact that the two countries are the world’s top emitters means they “have to help show the way.” 

“I think this is only the beginning and if we work hard we can take this to a better level,” he added.

Updated at 3:39 p.m.

Tags Climate change emissions Fossil fuels John Kerry

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