The United States and China Unexpectedly Signed a Climate Agreement
Activists and politicians have cautiously welcomed the unexpected declaration between the United States and China, which promises to boost climate cooperation. The EU and the UN described the move as encouraging, but Greenpeace said both sides needed to show more commitment.
The United States and China are the world's largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions. They said they would work together to achieve the goal of increasing the average temperature of the Earth by only 1.5 degrees Celsius, set in the Paris Agreement of 2015. According to research, limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees will help humanity to avoid catastrophic climate change. The announcement was made on Wednesday at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, which officially ends on Friday.
Promises - a lot. Now, towards which direction?
US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are expected to hold a virtual meeting next week at the earliest. According to the BBC, the announcement was made after about 30 meetings in the last 10 months. Despite the positive reaction, experts and activists warn that concrete action must now be taken to support the promises.
Genevieve Maricell, director of US climate policy at WWF, said the announcement offered "new hope" that the 1.5 degree limit could be reached. But he added that "we need to be aware of what is still required if both sides want to secure the necessary emission reductions over the next nine years."
Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan also warned that China and the United States must show greater commitment to achieving their climate goals. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, president of the Asian company working on global climate change agreements, told the BBC that the agreement "is not a change in the game" but a big step forward.
"The current state of geopolitics between China and the United States is terrible, so the fact that you can get this ... agreement between Washington and Beijing right now is important," Rudd said.
The declaration between the United States and China calls for intensified efforts to bridge the "significant gap" that remains to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Steps have been agreed on a number of issues, including methane emissions, the transition to clean energy and decarbonisation. Leading Chinese climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua told reporters that "there is more agreement between China and the United States than disagreement" on climate change. Earlier this week, China refused to join an agreement to limit methane emissions, but instead promised to develop a "national plan" to address the problem.
John Kerry, the US climate envoy, said that despite the differences between the United States and China, climate cooperation is vital. "Every step matters now and we have a long way to go," he said.
China is the world's largest source of carbon dioxide, followed by the United States. In September, President Xi Jinping announced that the country would strive for carbon neutrality by 2060, with a plan to reach peak emissions before 2030. The United States is striving for neutrality by 2050.
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