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US and China to combine to tackle climate change

The United States and China, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, agreed to co-operate to curb climate change with urgency, just days before President Joe Biden hosts a virtual summit of world leaders to discuss the issue.

he agreement was reached by US special envoy for climate John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua during two days of talks in Shanghai last week, according to a joint statement.

The two countries “are committed to co-operating 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.

Meeting with reporters in Seoul yesterday, Mr 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 it on actions. We all need to see what happens.”

China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, followed by the United States. The two countries pump out nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes that are warming the planet’s atmosphere.

Their co-operation is key to the success of global efforts to curb climate change, but frayed ties over human rights, trade and China’s territorial claims to Taiwan and the South China Sea have been threatening to undermine such efforts.

Noting that China is the world’s biggest coal user, Mr Kerry said he and Chinese officials had a lot of discussions on how to accelerate a global energy transition.

“I have never shied away from expressing our views shared by many, many people that it is imperative to reduce coal, everywhere,” he said.

Su Wei, a member of the Chinese negotiation team, told state broadcaster CCTV yesterday that a major accomplishment of the talks was “restarting the dialogue and co-operation between China and the United States on climate change issues”.

Mr Su said the two countries reached a consensus on key areas for future co-operation on climate issues.

Mr Biden has invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the April 22-23 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 is unclear how much Mr Kerry’s China visit would promote US-China co-operation on climate issues.

While Mr Kerry was still in Shanghai, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng signalled last Friday that China is unlikely to make any new pledges at next week’s summit.

“For a big country with 1.4 billion people, these goals are not easily delivered,” Mr 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.”

Online Editors

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