US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry addressing a press conference in Seoul. (AFP)
US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry addressing a press conference in Seoul. (AFP)

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis

China and the US, together with other countries, are committed to cooperating with each other on tackling the climate crisis, to be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands, the joint statement said.
By Sutirtho Patranobis, Beijing
UPDATED ON APR 19, 2021 08:12 AM IST

China and the United States, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, agreed to cooperate to curb climate change with “seriousness and urgency” and enhance collaboration in multilateral processes, including the Paris Agreement, days before President Joe Biden hosts a virtual summit of world leaders to discuss the issue.

The joint statement was issued on Sunday after a meeting between Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and his US counterpart, John Kerry, in Shanghai on Thursday and Friday, China’s ecology and environment ministry said on Sunday.

“China and the US, together with other countries, are committed to cooperating with each other on tackling the climate crisis, to be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands,” the statement said.

This includes, it added, strengthening their “respective actions and cooperating in multilateral fronts such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement”.

The two countries will continue to discuss “concrete actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions aimed at keeping the Paris Agreement-aligned temperature limit within reach”.

Kerry’s Shanghai stop, carried out under strict anti-Covid-19 protocols, was the first high-level visit of an official from US President Joe Biden’s administration to China.

The China-US joint statement on fighting climate crisis together comes amid strained bilateral ties on a range of issues, including Taiwan, South China Sea, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong.

The dialogue marked a resumption of exchange on climate between China and the US, the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, halted during former US President Donald Trump’s tenure.

Biden brought the US back into the Paris climate accord; Washington had withdrawn from it under Trump.

“Moving forward, China and the US are firmly committed to working together and with other parties to strengthen implementation of the Paris Agreement,” the joint statement said.

Climate cooperation between the two countries will include renewable energy, green and climate-resilient agriculture, low-carbon transportation, and emissions of methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

Meeting with reporters in Seoul on Sunday, Kerry said the language in the statement is “strong” and that the two countries agreed on “critical elements on where we have to go.” But the former secretary of state said, “I learned in diplomacy that you don’t put your back on the words, you put on actions. We all need to see what happens.”

Chinese vice foreign minister Le Yucheng, in an interview to Associated Press, welcomed the US’ return on international climate affairs under the Biden administration but urged it “to redouble its efforts to make up for the time lost during its absence”, referring to the time when Trump withdrew from the Paris accord.

Le reiterated China’s goals to peak its carbon dioxide emission by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

China said in the joint statement that it is looking forward to the Biden-led virtual climate summit to be held this week. Biden has invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the April 22-23 summit.It is not yet known if Chinese President Xi Jinping will join the 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.

During a video meeting with German and French leaders Friday, Xi said that climate change “should not become a geopolitical chip, a target for attacking other countries or an excuse for trade barriers”, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

On whether Xi would join the summit, Le said “the Chinese side is actively studying the matter.”

(With inputs from Associated Press)

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