Ahead of a leaders’ summit in San Francisco, the two biggest polluters in the world, the United States and China, announced on Wednesday that they would be starting a working group on climate cooperation and committing to a significant increase in renewable energy.
Cooperation on Climate Change
The statement was made just hours before the meeting to stabilise tense relations between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
As trade, technology, human rights, and geopolitics continue to be points of contention in the usually challenging US-China relationship, cooperation on climate change has long been viewed as a rare bright light. Over the past year, however, even that glimmer of hope has faded, as Beijing ended climate negotiations with Washington in retribution for a high level US visit to Taiwan last summer.
Following days of negotiations at the Sunnylands retreat in California earlier this month between US climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, the US State Department and China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment separately announced the statement on Wednesday. This summer, the two envoys also had a meeting in Beijing.
According to the statement, the two parties agreed to “operationalize” a suspended working group in order to “engage in dialogue and cooperation to accept concrete climate actions” this decade. At the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, Kerry and Xie originally proposed the formation of that working group; however, it has been on hold since August of last year.
The statement also promises a significant increase in the use of renewable energy sources, like as wind, solar, and battery storage, to support each nation enormous electricity industry and, in particular, to displace fossil fuels that overheat the globe, such as coal, oil, and gas.
Oil and Gas Substitution
In order to expedite “the substitution for coal, oil, and gas,” China and the US agreed to “sufficiently accelerate renewable energy deployment” in their respective economies by the end of 2030. Together with their promise to “triple renewable energy capacity globally by 2030,” they have stated that they intend to significantly cut release from their power industry this decade.
In their international climate obligations for 2035, both nations committed to economy wide reductions of all greenhouse emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons. The accord entails trying to reduce emissions in proportion to maintaining an increase in global temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is a critical point beyond which experts predict that it will become more difficult for people and entire ecosystems to adapt to the effects of climate change, including as heatwaves and droughts.
Director of China Climate
The most noteworthy aspect of the declaration, according to Li Shuo, director of the Asia Society Policy Institute’s China Climate Hub, was China’s commitment to set release targets for all greenhouse gas release. Only one of the greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide. Methane and other non-carbon dioxide gases continue to contribute significantly to China’s greenhouse gas release, the official stated.
Prior to 2030, China pledged to peak its emissions, but it did not say when exactly this would happen. However, there are indications that the nation’s quick deployment of solar and wind power may be beginning to replace coal; a Carbon Brief analysis published this week suggested that China’s emissions may begin to decline in the coming year, possibly signaling a larger decline in release.
US and China talks
When the US and China meet in the UAE, the talks will assist to stabilise the political situation, but significant issues like the phase out of fossil fuels still require significant political work. China must also think about what more aspiration it can provide the COP. A wise next move would be to halt the approval of new coal-fired power plants.