In a shared announcement, the two governments, US and China, revealed on Wednesday, November 15th, the establishment of a working group to address climate issues, signaling a commitment to collaborate on combating global warming despite strained relations
Both China and the United States emphasized the urgency of tackling the climate crisis, acknowledging it as one of the most significant challenges of our time. As part of this commitment, a working group on climate cooperation will be launched, demonstrating their dedication to enhance communication and improve relations, coinciding with a leaders’ meeting in San Francisco just hours away.
Xi Jinping and Joe Biden are scheduled to have their first meeting in a year on the sidelines of the APEC summit in California. The backdrop includes trade tensions, human rights issues, and the matter of Taiwan, which have led to disputes between Washington and Beijing. Despite these challenges, climate change has been identified as a potential area for common ground. Climate envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua from the US and China respectively met from November 4-7 at the Sunnylands retreat in California, aiming to revive stalled cooperation.
In a joint statement reported by Chinese state media and released by the US State Department after the meetings, both governments committed to the success of a crucial UN climate summit scheduled for the end of this month in Dubai. They also reaffirmed their dedication to the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord, aiming to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and making efforts to cap the increase at 1.5 degrees.
“The United States and China recognize that the climate crisis has increasingly affected countries around the world,” the statement said.
The two sides agreed to “work together and with other parties” to “rise up to one of the greatest challenges of our time for present and future generations of humankind.”
The statement mentioned that the working group would concentrate on “energy transition, methane, circular economy and resource efficiency, low-carbon and sustainable provinces/states and cities, and deforestation.” The group aims to “initiate discussions and collaboration to expedite tangible climate initiatives,” the statement added. Additionally, they will resume “two-way conversations concerning energy policies and strategies,” committing to “enhance exchanges on energy-saving and carbon reduction solutions.”
The United States and China will also “immediately initiate technical working group cooperation” on reducing methane, with China being the world’s largest emitter of this gas. Although Beijing recently revealed a comprehensive plan to regulate methane emissions, it did not specify a particular target for reduction. However, in their joint statement, both nations agreed to “formulate their respective methane reduction actions/targets” to be included in their 2035 emission reduction plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Experts acknowledge that achieving the Paris Agreement goals requires a substantial collective endeavor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this decade. However, this objective becomes even more challenging in a world marked by geopolitical tensions, including the rivalry between China and the United States. The International Energy Agency (IEA) cautioned last month that “immediate reductions” in methane emissions are essential to limit climate warming.
Countries are set to meet in Dubai later this month for the COP28 summit. With temperatures soaring and 2023 expected to become the warmest year in human history, scientists say the pressure on world leaders to curb planet-heating greenhouse gas pollution has never been more urgent. Success at that summit will hinge on an agreement between the United States and China, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters.
Asked about his expectations for talks with Xi, Biden on Tuesday characterized the meeting as an opportunity to mend ties that have floundered in recent years. “We’re not trying to decouple from China. What we’re trying to do is change the relationship for the better,” Biden told reporters at the White House before heading to San Francisco. He expressed the desire “to get back on a normal course of corresponding, being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another if there’s a crisis, being able to make sure our (militaries) still have contact with one another.”