China and the United States say they are determined to work together and with other countries to tackle climate change.
This follows several meetings between Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and his US counterpart John Kerry in Shanghai last week.
They both agreed to specific new actions to reduce emissions, a joint statement confirmed on Sunday.
US President Joe Biden is hosting a virtual climate summit this week, which China says it is looking forward to.
However, it is not yet known whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will join world leaders who have pledged to attend.
“The United States and China are committed to cooperate with each other and with other countries to deal with the climate crisis, which must be treated with the seriousness and urgency it demands,” the statement said.
He added that the two countries will continue to discuss “concrete actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions aimed at keeping the temperature limit aligned with the Paris Agreement within reach.”
The two countries also agreed to help developing countries finance the switch to low-carbon energy.
Li Shuo, senior climate advisor for environmental group Greenpeace, called the statement “positive.”
“This sends a very clear message that on this particular issue (China and the United States) will cooperate. Before the Shanghai meetings, this was not a message that we could assume,” Li told the Reuters news agency.
The joint statement – symbolically released at a roundtable – will bring relief to anyone concerned about the planet. Stabilizing climate change simply won’t be possible unless the super-polluters pull much harder. A recent report said that China, for example, had to shut down 588 coal-fired power plants to meet its climate commitments.
Is China heading in the right direction on coal? No – its regional governors have built more coal-fired power stations to boost the economy.
One of the outcomes of the US-China meeting is the recognition that financial flows should be channeled into low-carbon, not high-carbon, projects. The two sides also pledged plans to further reduce their own emissions. President Biden will unveil his proposals at or before next week’s US summit.
President Xi mocks his participation in the summit. Instead, he could announce tougher Chinese targets at the Boao Forum – a Chinese forum for business and government leaders – also this week. And remember: all other nations must commit to tackling the climate – not just the superpowers.
Mr. Kerry’s trip to China is the first high-level visit by a member of the Biden administration since the new US president took office. However, US and Chinese officials met for talks in Alaska last month.
Prior to his trip to Shanghai, Kerry told CNN that China’s cooperation was “absolutely essential” to tackle the climate crisis.
“Yes, we have big disagreements with China on some key issues, absolutely. But the climate needs to be self-sustaining,” he said.
What needs to be changed?
Climatologists warn that global warming must not exceed pre-industrial levels by more than 2 ° C – in fact, the target should be well below that with an increasingly ambitious target of 1.5 ° C, for avoid the worst of weather blackouts.
Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are at the heart of the Paris Agreement. These are targets intended to reduce emissions.
The NDCs represent the commitments of each country – within the framework of the Paris Pact – to reduce their own national emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
According to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis that tracks government climate action, China’s NDC rating is “grossly inadequate” and “not at all compatible with keeping warming below 2 ° C.”
China is committed to peaking emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 (this means reducing all carbon emissions from fossil fuels while allowing methane emissions on farms – another heating gas for the planet).
However, China currently operates 1,058 coal-fired power plants, more than half of the world’s capacity.
The United States, meanwhile, has the worst NDC rating of “insufficient review” on the Climate Action Tracker.
The United States was absent from climate talks during President Donald Trump’s tenure and is now urged to cut emissions from 57% to 63% below 2005 levels this decade.