China and the US jointly announced plans to fight climate change.

Xie Zhenhua, China's climate change envoy, said there is more agreement and disagreement between the two countries on climate, and that cooperation is the only way the two sides can rise to the challenge.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By WANG Qing


China and the United States, the world’s two largest emitters, announced a joint agreement on November 10 saying they would work together to curb climate change. The two parties, while acknowledging “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,” agree to do more to cut emissions in the next decade. They also intend to establish a working group to enhance concrete climate action.

The agreement is the result of 30 virtual meetings and four in-person ones. It is a step forward from the China-US Joint Statement Addressing the Climate Crisis issued on April 17 and reflects discussions during the two parties’ climate talks in Tianjin this September.

China and the United States will implement more emissions-cutting measures to achieve the Paris goals of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and within 1.5 degrees if possible. In announcing the joint agreement, XIE Zhenhua, China’s climate change envoy, said there is a gap between the current global effort and the Paris goals, and the two countries will work together with other countries to accelerate a green, low-carbon transition to fill the gap.

He said China and the United States should accept their responsibility to an ambitious, balanced, inclusive outcome to the summit. The two countries have reached some consensus on mitigation, adaptation, and support. More progress should be made in using market mechanisms to curb emissions. China has launched its carbon market this year. A fair and efficient global market should be established to cover global emissions.

The two countries have promised concrete action in decarbonization, electrification, clean energy, and deforestation. China committed for the first time to cut its methane emissions. 100 countries, China not among them, joined a global pledge to cut methane by 30 percent by 2030 last week. Xie said China will develop its own methane plans.

Also mentioned in the agreement is the establishment of a working group to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process. The group will promote policy and technical exchanges among governments, enterprises, think tanks, academics, and other experts.

Xie said a working group will regularize China-US climate cooperation, and that it will lead to closer discussions and more solid action. The first meeting will be held in the first half of next year.

Xie said only by working together will China and the United States rise to the challenge of climate change, and that there is more agreement than disagreement between these two countries on climate.

John Kerry, the US climate envoy, also said that “cooperation is the only way to get this job done.”

“Now the two largest economies in the world have agreed to raise climate ambition in this decisive decade,” he said.

Global figures and climate experts have praised the agreement. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, calls it “an important step in the right direction.” Laurence Tubiana, an economist and France's former climate change ambassador, said it shows China and the US “can cooperate to address the climate crisis.”

Thom Woodroofe, a fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute, told New York Times that “it means the intense level of U.S.-China dialogue on climate can now begin to translate into cooperation."