U.S., China say they will co-operate to tackle climate change

The U.S. and China are committed to co-operating to tackle climate change, they said in a joint statement after meetings between senior envoys last week that were held amid rising geopolitical tensions between the two countries.

The two nations will work together and with other parties to support implementation of the Paris Agreement and to promote a successful United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow later this year, they said.

The statement signals the intentions of both countries to co-operate on climate despite tensions over issues ranging from trade to alleged human rights abuses by China. U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who met in the White House on Friday, said they “shared their concerns over Chinese activities that are inconsistent with the international rules-based order.” China’s Foreign Ministry rejected the criticism and accused the leaders of meddling in its affairs.

“The joint statement is a firm step towards co-operation amid great geopolitical challenges,” Li Shuo, a Beijing-based climate analyst at Greenpeace East Asia, said by email on Sunday. “The statement underlined the need for near-term ambitious actions and will launch a process of continued G2 engagement on an existential issue of global interest.”

Biden will host a virtual climate conference on Thursday and Friday with world leaders, and both the U.S. and China “share the summit’s goal of raising global climate ambition on mitigation, adaptation, and support,” they said in the statement. Chinese President Xi Jinping will participate, Dow Jones reported Sunday.

The U.S. and China support the Paris Agreement’s aim to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 C and to try to restrict it to 1.5 C, according to the joint statement, which followed discussions in Shanghai on April 15 and 16 between U.S. presidential climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua.

China has faced pressure from other nations to accelerate its path to peak emissions and to set out details of how it intends to reach net-zero emissions by 2060. The government’s most recent five-year plan, published in March, has also faced criticized over a lack of ambition and didn’t include any new hard target for reducing emissions.

Climate diplomacy has been an area in which Xi has been eager to show global leadership and a contrast to China’s trade tensions with the U.S. and allies, or global scrutiny over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and moves to silence democracy advocates in Hong Kong.

Xi has made the environment a priority since becoming president in 2013, speaking early in his tenure about bringing blue skies back to Beijing and restoring China’s environment to the beautiful landscapes he remembered as a child. His policies have also helped propel China to a world-leading role in manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles.

In 2014 Xi and President Barack Obama negotiated a bilateral emissions deal that helped pave the way for the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Still, much work remains. China is by far the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and plans to increase carbon emissions through the end of the decade. The government also continues to support the country’s vast coal industry.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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