The US and China are “committed to cooperating” on the pressing issue of climate change, the two sides said in a joint statement Saturday, following a visit to Shanghai by US climate envoy John Kerry.
“The United States and China are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands,” said the statement from Kerry and China’s special envoy for climate change Xie Zhenhua.
Kerry, the former US secretary of state, was the first official from president Joe Biden’s administration to visit China, signalling hopes the two sides could work together on the global challenge despite sky-high tensions on multiple other fronts.
The joint statement listed multiple avenues of cooperation between the US and China, the world’s top two economies that together account for nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.
It stressed “enhancing their respective actions and cooperating in multilateral processes, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement”.
The nations also agreed to discuss specific “concrete” emission reduction actions including energy storage, carbon capture and hydrogen, and agreed to take action to maximise financing for developing countries to switch to low-carbon energy sources.
The statement said both countries “look forward” to Biden’s upcoming virtual climate-summit and shared the summit’s goal of raising global climate ambition on “mitigation, adaptation, and support on the road to COP 26 in Glasgow”.
Biden has invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese president Xi Jinping, to the 22-23 April summit. The US and other countries are expected to announce more ambitious national targets for cutting carbon emissions ahead of or at the meeting, along with pledging financial help for climate efforts by less wealthy nations.
It’s still unclear how much Kerry’s visit will promote US-China cooperation on climate issues, however. When Kerry was still in Shanghai, Chinese vice foreign minister Le Yucheng signalled that China was unlikely to make any new pledges at the summit.
“For a big country with 1.4 billion people, these goals are not easily delivered,” Le said during an interview with The Associated Press in Beijing.
“Some countries are asking China to achieve the goals earlier. I am afraid this is not very realistic.”
On whether Xi would join the summit, Le said “the Chinese side is actively studying the matter”.
During a video meeting with German and French leaders on Friday, Xi also said that climate change “should not become a geopolitical chip, a target for attacking other countries or an excuse for trade barriers,” though he called for closer cooperation on the issue, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Li Shuo, senior climate adviser for the environmental group Greenpeace, took a positive view of the joint statement, saying China could soon respond to a new US pledge with one of its own, building on the “momentum” of the Shanghai talks.
“The statement in my view is as positive as the politics would allow: it sends a very unequivocal message that on this particular issue (China and the United States) will cooperate. Before the meetings in Shanghai this was not a message that we could assume,” Li said.
Biden has made climate a top priority, turning the page from his predecessor Donald Trump, who was closely aligned with the fossil fuel industry.
The US president has rejoined the 2015 Paris accord, which Kerry negotiated when he was secretary of state, and committed nations to taking action to keep temperature rises at no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.