China, US at odds on many issues agree to surprise climate deal

GLASGOW – China’s top climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua apologized after arriving late for a weekend meeting at the United Nations Climat...


GLASGOW – China’s top climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua apologized after arriving late for a weekend meeting at the United Nations Climate Summit.

“We have a pretty busy schedule,” said Mr. Xie, according to two people at the exchange. “Especially for me, I have to meet John Kerry almost every day.”

In an unexpected development, the United States and China on Wednesday announced in a joint statement that they will both do more to reduce fossil fuel pollution this decade. The terms of the deal were not revolutionary, but the fact that the deal took place is remarkable, given the very strained ties between Washington and Beijing on trade, human rights, Taiwan and China. other serious differences.

Despite this, according to U.S. and Chinese officials, the deal was the product of months of meetings between Mr. Xie and Mr. Kerry, President Biden’s global climate envoy, before they arrived in Glasgow for the conference. known as COP26. The two men also had near-daily talks at the summit, the officials said.

Even though Mr. Biden earlier in the summit publicly berated President Xi Jinping for not attending in person, in turn triggering a spate of sniping from Beijing, Mr. Xie and Mr. Kerry continued to meet quietly to discuss the possibility for China to increase its ambition. on the climate.

Over the past 10 days, the two envoys, along with their negotiating teams, have met frequently in one or the other’s delegation office, makeshift white rooms without windows thin partitions held together. by metal hinges, installed in a cavernous exhibition center where the two-week talks take place in Scotland.

Mr. Kerry, 77, and Mr. Xie, 72, have known each other for more than 20 years and both have come out of retirement to take on their nation’s top climate roles. Speaking through masked performers, they talked about their grandchildren, Mr. Kerry’s vacation home, and Mr. Xie’s garden before embarking on more intense coal negotiations, the methane and greenhouse gas emissions, according to a senior US official who was part of the talks.

The world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases looked more like allies in the fight against climate change than fierce rivals on Wednesday, with Mr Xie and Mr Kerry saying the two countries were responsible for prevent rising global temperatures from reaching dangerous levels.

“We both see that the challenge of climate change is existential and serious,” Mr. Xie said. “As two great world powers, China and the United States, we must take responsibility and work together and work with others in a spirit of cooperation to combat climate change.”

Tensions between the United States and China are at their highest in years. Mr Kerry said he had been “honest” about concerns about China’s treatment of Uighurs and other Turkish Muslims in China’s semi-autonomous province of Xinjiang, but said his aim was to to be “the climate guy”. He also said the two countries must work together to move away from fossil fuels, regardless of other issues that arise.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, called it “an important step in the right direction”. Laurence Tubiana, former French climate change ambassador, said it showed “that the two countries can work together to tackle the climate crisis”.

But experts have agreed that the terms of the deal fall far short of a deal Mr. Kerry and Mr. Xie helped negotiate in 2014, in which the United States and China jointly announced new targets. reduction in emissions.

This moment was groundbreaking because China, as a developing country despite its skyrocketing emissions, was exempt under the United Nations climate body’s rules from taking mandatory measures to reduce its broadcasts. The 2014 accord helped boost the Paris climate accord a year later, in which nearly 200 countries of all levels of wealth and responsibility driving climate change agreed to act.

Wednesday’s joint US-China statement said the two countries “will accelerate the transition to a net-zero global economy,” referring to the goal of net zero emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas. He also calls on the two countries to strengthen their emissions plan.

In addition, China has agreed to “gradually reduce” its consumption of coal during its 15th five-year plan, which will begin in 2026.

However, the deal has not secured any new commitments from China as to when it will stop spitting ever-increasing amounts of fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere and instead start turning the tide.

China has said it will stop increasing its greenhouse gas emissions before 2030, what it often calls the date when they will peak. But in Wednesday’s deal, China did not specify exactly when that would happen, and U.S. officials urged their counterparts to set a clear and earlier date.

Mr Kerry said on Wednesday that the two countries had discussed the issue on several occasions and insisted that the new deal pushed China in the direction of a rapid bending of the emissions curve downwards.

Manish Bapna, chairman of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based environmental group, said the deal was “good news.” But, he said, “if we are to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, we urgently need to see cooperative commitments translated into bolder climate goals and credible achievement. “

“It’s a climate truce,” said Nick Mabey, executive director of E3G, a climate change research group.

While the deal is not a major deal for new climate action, Mabey said, it does have geopolitical significance in signaling that China and the United States have ended the “war of words” that has contributed to the tensions during the summit.

Scientists said that allowing global temperatures to rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels greatly increases the risk of calamities such as deadly heat waves, water shortages and ecosystem collapse. The world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius.

China has refused to agree to the goal of keeping the temperature rise at 1.5 degrees because it would force the country to make bigger and more immediate cuts than it has promised so far.

But in an important step, China has agreed to develop a “national plan” to reduce methane – a potent greenhouse gas that the country has yet to mention in its emission reduction plans.

China’s current national emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement do not mention methane, the second most potent greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. Methane is the main component of natural gas and is also released to the atmosphere from landfills, livestock and thawing permafrost.

However, China did not adhere to a global commitment on methane that Mr. Biden announced last week, in which more than 100 countries have said they will aim to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

Speaking through an interpreter, Xie said, “There is more agreement between China and the United States than there is disagreement. With two days left at the Glasgow summit for the participating nations to work out a global deal, he added: “We hope this joint statement can contribute to the success” of the summit.

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Newsrust - US Top News: China, US at odds on many issues agree to surprise climate deal
China, US at odds on many issues agree to surprise climate deal
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