COP26: Promise to cooperate with US surprises, but China doesn’t change climate goals

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The United States and China surprised the climate summit (COP26) on Wednesday (10), when representatives of the countries announced an agreement to intensify their climate ambitions, just days before the end of the conference in Glasgow.

“There is more agreement between the US and China than disagreement, making it an area of ​​enormous potential for cooperation,” China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua told a news conference.

“The release of this joint statement shows once again that cooperation is the only choice for China and the United States. Working together, our two countries can achieve many important things that are beneficial to the world as a whole.”

Xie has not guaranteed China’s adherence to the Global Methane Commitment, which was led by the US and the European Union (EU), and which requires signatories to reduce methane emissions by about a third.

He also did not guarantee the country’s commitment to any other major international agreement, saying China wanted “differentiated responsibilities”.

However, Xie said China plans to develop its own national methane plan.

“In terms of methane, the United States announced… [um plano de ação para o metano], and China intends to develop a national methane plan, and we will also encourage and increase cooperation regarding methane measurement and mitigation,” Xie said.

He added that the US and China are “committed to making cooperation more concrete and pragmatic and based on institutions and mechanisms,” and said both countries plan to establish a working group to improve climate action in the 2020s.

At a press conference immediately after Xie, US special climate envoy John Kerry said he was “satisfied” with the agreement between the two countries.

“We believe the steps we are taking can answer questions about the pace at which China is going and help China, the US and others accelerate their efforts,” Kerry said.

He said the US and China have two options: they can leave COP26 without working together and leave “the world wondering where the future will go, clearly with a gap.”

“Or we can leave here with people working together to raise ambition and start moving down a better path,” Kerry said. “That’s the choice.”

Kerry added that US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will soon have a virtual summit and said their team is busy preparing for that event.

Kerry also said he first spoke with China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua in February after Biden was sworn in, and talks continued for months.

Earlier on Wednesday, the COP26 presidency published a draft agreement for the summit. The text says the world should aim to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and recognizes the role of fossil fuels in the climate crisis, the first time the annual summit has done so.

Xie did not directly respond to a question about whether China would support the COP26 draft agreement in its full form, although he said earlier that the country was adhering to the Paris Agreement’s goal of containing global warming to 2 degrees, but preferentially 1.5 degrees.

Chinese officials have said for months that they would not support any changes to the Paris Agreement’s temperature rise targets.

China, the world’s biggest consumer of coal, did not sign a declaration at COP26 committing to eliminate the use of coal. The US and India also refused to sign. Countries are the three biggest emitters and biggest consumers of coal in the world.

When asked whether China would move forward on its date to peak its greenhouse gas emissions, which is currently before 2030, Kerry said that US officials believe China may have already peaked its emissions and that emissions have stabilized.

“President Xi has set a deadline for when he believes he can peak, and we’ve had a lot of discussions about the peak,” Kerry said.

“What we wanted to be sure of was that when China starts the process that it has agreed to according to the announced plan, we could try to speed it up and China has accepted that they will do their best to speed up the phasing-out work.”

A strained relationship between the US and China has undermined success in previous climate talks. The two nations limited the success of the Kyoto Protocol, which preceded the 2015 Paris Agreement. China was not required to join as a developing country, and the US refused to join without China.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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