Xi and Biden promote climate cooperation in virtual meeting
Xi and Biden held a much-anticipated virtual conference earlier this week to address a wide range of topics including climate change. This is the first virtual meeting between Chinese and US leaders in the two nations’ diplomatic history, China’s deputy foreign minister Xie Feng said. Xi and Biden had already discussed climate issues in a phone call
in September. The latest exchange took place on Tuesday morning Beijing time or Monday night US eastern standard time. According to China’s state media, the dialogue lasted three hours and 40 minutes. Both sides expressed hopes of working together to tackle climate issues.
Xinhua – the state news agency – published a readout
of Xi’s remarks. Below are some key points on climate change from Xi, according to the release. Xi said that the issue “can absolutely become a new highlight in the Sino-US cooperation” and underlined that China would need to spend “very arduous effort” to “accomplish the greatest carbon intensity drop globally using the shortest time in history”. He emphasised that China had the tradition of delivering on its commitments and yielding results with its action before stressing that one must not promise what they will not be able to achieve. Moreover, Xi called for cooperation instead of accusation and called on nations to compare their actions, not their slogans. Xi wrapped up his climate comments by urging developed countries to “earnestly fulfil their historical responsibilities and bounded duty”.
from the White House said that Biden and Xi “discussed the existential nature of the climate crisis to the world” and the important role the two countries play. It noted that “they also discussed the importance of taking measures to address global energy supplies”. The White House also published Biden’s opening remarks
. According to it, Biden told Xi: “It seems to me we need to establish some common-sense guardrails, to be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where our interests intersect, especially on vital global issues like climate change.” He also stated the importance of “a sound and steady China-US relationship” for “safeguarding a peaceful and stable international environment, including finding effective responses to global challenges such as climate change”, the remarks showed.
According to CCTV
– China’s state broadcaster – Xi and Biden had “thorough and in-depth communication and exchange on strategic, overall and fundamental issues related to the development of the China-US relations as well as important issues of mutual concern”. It ran a video
showing Xi giving his opening speech, including the part where Xi called Biden an “old friend
” – a special diplomatic term reserved by China for selected foreign politicians. CGTN
– the English arm of CCTV – reported that, according to Xi, China and the US “should fully harness the dialogue channels and mechanisms” between their climate change teams to “advance practical cooperation and resolve specific issues”. China’s deputy foreign minister Xie said at a post-meeting press briefing that climate change cooperation was “inseparable from the overall sentiment of the two countries’ relations” and needed efforts from both sides, state-run newswire China News Service
US COVERAGE: CNN
reported that, during the meeting, Biden “raised areas where the US and China can cooperate, including on climate change”. The network noted: “The two countries recently surprised observers at the COP26 climate talks in Scotland with a joint pledge to cut emissions.” In another piece
, CNN wrote that the virtual meeting “saw no substantive policy on key issues” including climate, but “it did establish a dialogue that can be built on”. The New York Times
said that the two leaders “reiterated their commitment” to the climate change issue, but “much remains unclear about how the two governments will work together”. And according to AP
, the White House “has said it views cooperation on climate change as something in China’s interest, something the two nations should cooperate on despite differences on other aspects of the relationship”. Other US outlets, including the Washington Post
, the Los Angeles Times
, Fox News
and VOA News
, also reported on the meeting.
China and US pledge to collaborate on cutting methane
China and the US have agreed to work together to reduce methane emissions in this decade – one of the key takeaways from the two countries’ joint climate declaration
released last week at COP26.
According to the “surprise
” deal, both sides recognise the “significant role” methane emissions play in climate change and “consider increased action to control and reduce such emissions to be a matter of necessity in the 2020s”.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) with an estimated warming potential of around 30 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is the second biggest contributor to human-caused global warming after CO2. But unlike CO2 – which affects the atmosphere for centuries – methane’s atmospheric lifetime is much shorter, at about 10 years. This means that slashing methane emissions could reduce warming relatively quickly (while cutting CO2 emissions only means no additional warming). Carbon Brief’s analysis
on the Global Methane Pledge – which the US has signed but China has not – had more explanation on methane. (China’s 2060 carbon neutrality
pledge refers to the neutralisation of all GHGs – which includes methane – according to its climate envoy Xie Zhenhua.)
DETAIL: According to the joint declaration, China and the US “intend to cooperate to enhance the measurement of methane emissions”. They also “intend” to “exchange information on their respective policies and programmes for strengthening management and control of methane” and to “foster joint research into methane emission reduction challenges and solutions”, the deal said. Specifically, the statement noted that, before COP27 next November, the two countries “intend to develop additional measures to enhance methane emission control, at both the national and sub-national levels” and that China “intends to develop a comprehensive and ambitious National Action Plan on methane”. Both sides also “intend” to meet in the first half of next year “to focus on the specifics of enhancing measurement and mitigation of methane”, the document read.
Several key documents released by China this year – including its 14th five-year plan
and its updated nationally determined contribution
– contained expressions on the reduction of methane emissions, according to a blog post
from the Beijing representative office of the Environmental Defense Fund
(EDF), a non-profit organisation headquartered in the US. The piece said that Li Gao, director-general of the department of climate change at China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, stated in January 2020 that the nation would “consider promoting actions of limiting methane emissions when the conditions are mature”. In March this year, Li said that China would formulate an action plan to “control methane emissions” during the 14th five-year plan period – which runs from 2021 to 2025 – the post noted. Commenting on the joint declaration, Fred Krupp, president of EDF, said
: “It’s notable that near-term action, in particular, to reduce methane emissions, is [listed] explicitly on the agenda of this important bilateral relationship and is moving to specifics.”