China and the US publish joint climate declaration
China and the US published the “US-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s” on Wednesday at COP26. (Read it in Chinese here
or in English here
.) The document – which builds on the two countries’ joint statement in April (here
) and their climate talks
in Tianjin in September – says China and the US will “work together and with other parties to strengthen implementation of the Paris Agreement”. It highlights several areas of joint efforts, including reducing methane, promoting decarbonisation and protecting forests. Yesterday evening, China’s climate envoy Xie and his US counterpart, John Kerry, held consecutive press conferences to announce the deal.
CHINA: Xie told the press conference that the Sino-US joint declaration “further raises detailed measures for China and the US on carrying out domestic action, promoting bilateral cooperation and advancing the multilateral process”. Xie said that both sides had recognised that there was “a gap” between various parties’ efforts and the goals under the Paris Agreement. He noted that China and the US “would jointly strengthen climate action and cooperation with respect to different national circumstances”, adding there was “more agreement than divergence” between them. He added that the two nations planned to establish a “working group” dedicated to enhancing climate action in the 2020s.
US: Kerry told reporters that the two countries’ leaders hoped that – despite “areas of real difference” – China and the US “could cooperate on the climate crisis”. He noted that with this joint declaration, the two sides have “arrived at a new stop, a roadmap for our present and future collaboration” against global warming. He said that “we will work together to limit methane – a greenhouse gas up to 80 times more destructive, more potent than CO2”. Kerry added: “As I’ve said many times, the US and China have no shortage of differences, but on climate, cooperation is the only way to get this job done…We need to raise ambition and we need to take action in this decisive decade.”
The “surprise” statement “injects new momentum into the last days of global climate negotiations
reported. Sky News
said “in an unexpected update from Glasgow, the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases have pledged to work together on climate change”. Matt McGrath, the environment correspondent of BBC News
, noted that “the joint steps agreed – on methane, forests and technology transfer – are important symbolically and also potentially in emissions terms”. JW View
– which is affiliated with Chinese state-run news wire China News Service – stressed that, according to the statement, China would “phase down coal consumption during the 15th five-year plan period (2026-2030) and make best efforts to accelerate this work.” Various other outlets – including the Guardian
, New York Times
and China’s state news agency Xinhua
– also covered the story.
António Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, said he welcomed the agreement. He wrote
on Twitter: “Tackling the climate crisis requires international collaboration and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction.” Frans Timmermans, the EU’s executive vice president and climate commissioner, said
it was “good news that the US and China have found common ground on climate”, calling the agreement “a challenge which transcends politics”. Thom Woodroofe
, a former climate diplomat, said: “While this is not a game changer in the way the 2014 US-China climate deal was, in many ways it’s just as much of a step forward given the geopolitical state of the relationship.” Brandon Wu, ActionAid USA
’s director of policy and campaigns, regarded the statement as a “positive sign”. But he added: “There is very little new agreed to in the framework, so as with all of the major announcements at COP, the key will be following up with real action on the ground.”
Beijing calls for ‘concrete actions’ against climate change
WHAT: During a low-key press conference in the first week of COP26, Chinese envoy Xie urged that countries must take “concrete actions” to address climate change. “Shouting slogans and setting goals alone won’t work. [Countries] must have clear roadmaps, innovate and cooperate to truly solve the problems,” Xie said on 2 November at the closed-door event. Below are some key messages from Xie, according to a recording of the press conference obtained by Carbon Brief.
Xie highlighted that developed countries had not met their pledge of providing $100bn in financial support every year to developing countries by 2020. He said: “When I held talks with COP26 president Alok Sharma and US envoy Kerry recently, they told me that the $100bn financial support would be met by 2022 or 2023…For developing countries, [this] has caused some problems in political mutual trust.” (Carbon Brief’s analysis
has explained why climate-finance “flows” are falling short of the $100bn pledge.)
Developing renewable energy is a “very important measure” to help China cut emissions, according to Xie. He said: “The total installed capacity of China’s renewable energy has reached 890 gigawatts, which accounts for 32% of the world’s total and 53% of the newly installed capacity globally…Compared with 2005, China’s energy consumption per unit of GDP has dropped by 42.4%, equal to saving 2.2bn tonnes of standard coal equivalent (tce). Our carbon intensity has decreased by 48.4%, meaning we have reduced our CO2 emissions by 5.7bn tonnes.” (Read China’s new nationally determined contribution here
1.5C VS 2C:
When asked if China will try its best to achieve the 1.5C goal under the Paris Agreement
, Xie said that the accord has not one, but two targets: to limit global warming “well below” 2C and “pursuing efforts” for 1.5C. He said: “The Paris Agreement’s goals are science-based, rule-based, inclusive and achievable. Such floating targets are relatively practical. Actually, the 1.5C goal is included in the Paris Agreement and it is not too different from the saying ‘to keep 1.5C within reach’. This means we have a consensus. If you try to destroy the consensus and say the goal is just 1.5C, some countries may demand that the Paris Agreement be renegotiated. Then, we will run out of time.” He clarified: “We are not opposing the 1.5C goal as it’s already in the Paris Agreement…The key is how to achieve it.”
Xie underscored the importance of taking concrete actions. He said: “Whether or not we can achieve goals of [keeping the warming] well below 2C and preferably 1.5C does not depend on countries’ slogans, but their actions. Countries must carry out transition in their economy and society. If we continue with our traditional development methods, lifestyles and consuming modes, the Paris Agreement goals will not be achieved.” (Read Carbon Brief’s analysis
on when the world might exceed 1.5C and 2C of global warming.)
Xie admitted that China’s emissions “are indeed relatively high in our current development stage”. He said: “According to the Kuznets curve
, countries’ emissions will indeed increase in the process of developing. But China is already trying to significantly reduce the peak level of the emissions. We would not only lower the peak level but also shorten the time [to peak emissions], and this is the effort from China for the global response to climate change.” (Carbon Brief has explained the significance of the Kuznets curve to the country’s climate governance in this analysis
by China contributing editor Jianqiang Liu
TRUMP: Xie said that the US had caused a long delay to the multilateral cooperation against climate change because of the Trump administration. He said: “The joint efforts of China and the US had originally contributed to the conclusion and signing of the Paris Agreement, but, in the end, president Trump announced to withdraw from it. President Xi said that, as the Paris Agreement had not come easy and reflected the direction of global development, [we] cannot give up lightly. But the US gave up and caused a five-year delay to the entire multilateral process of climate change. [The US] should catch up. We can work together.”
Biden and Obama criticise Xi’s no-show at COP26
The current and former US presidents Biden and Obama criticised Xi for failing to travel to Glasgow. According to the Guardian
, Biden “launched a stinging attack” on China over Xi’s non-attendance at a COP26 address, calling it a “big mistake”. Biden – who also rebuked Russian president Vladimir Putin for missing COP26 – was quoted saying: “It is a gigantic issue and they just walked away.” Obama called out Xi and Putin for not coming in a speech on Monday, reported Al Jazeera
. He described the absences as “particularly discouraging” and said the two nations’ climate plans reflected “a dangerous lack of urgency”, the outlet said.
China has not given a clear reason for Xi’s absence. The Chinese climate envoy Xie – whose official title
at COP26 is “President Xi Jinping’s special representative” – said: “Due to domestic work arrangements, President Xi cannot come to attend COP26.” However, Wang Yi, a senior adviser to the Chinese delegation, told the Guardian
that Xi’s non-appearance was due to the country’s Covid-19 regulations.
Asked why Xi had sent in a written statement, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told
a press briefing: “As I understand, the host of the conference did not provide the option to participate by videoconference.” A COP26 spokesperson told Carbon Brief: “As hosts of COP26, we encouraged leaders to physically attend this critical event for the future of our planet. All speeches at the World Leaders Summit were given in person.”
China has strongly rejected the criticism levelled at Xi by Biden. Foreign spokesman Wang said
that the US “should face up to its historical responsibilities
”. China’s state media has run multiple articles condemning the US. An opinion piece in Global Times
– a state-run tabloid – said that “Washington has tried to take compensatory actions for the damage it caused to global climate governance” at COP26. Another comment piece in People’s Daily
– the mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party – said that “the US and west have once again shifted the blame to China, with the aim at climate change issues this time.” Xinhua ran an interview
with “British author and political commentator” Carlos Martinez, who “criticised some western countries’ performance on climate change, such as the US”.