China and the United States pledged Wednesday to collaborate to speed climate action this decade, each announcing a surprising agreement on global warming, which is already wreaking havoc on the planet.
The unified declaration came as the crunch COP26 climate summit in Glasgow entered its decisive final days, with negotiators squabbling over how to keep global warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
"This document makes unequivocal statements about the bad science, the emissions gap, and the critical need to accelerate action to close the gap, "John Kerry, the United States' special envoy, said reporters.
"It commits to a series of critical actions now, during this decade."
The strategy is devoid of precise benchmarks but brimming with political symbolism at a conference that began with the US and China — the world's two largest emitters — appearing at odds.
US Vice President Joe Biden criticized President Xi Jinping's decision not to attend the Glasgow conference last week, accusing China of walking away.
Beijing responded, but ties appear to have thawed ahead of next week's bilateral meetings, with Kerry and China's long-serving climate envoy Xie Zhenhua both pledging to put their disagreements aside to work together on climate.
"Both sides recognize that a gap exists between current efforts and the Paris Agreement's goals, and as a result, we will collaborate to strengthen climate action "Xie explained.
On Thursday, Chinese President Xi emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two countries, which accounts for about 40% of global carbon emissions.
"We can all embark on a road of sustainable green development that is low in carbon." "He made the remarks during a virtual business conference held in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. "By working together, we can usher in a new era of sustainable development."
'Seriousness and a sense of urgency
A document summarizing the accord emphasizes reducing methane emissions, which Kerry called the "single most effective and fastest strategy to reduce global warming." "'.
Additionally, it states that the two parties will meet regularly to "address the climate crisis." "'.
The text emphasizes the importance of stepping up efforts to combat climate change in the short term – scientists have cautioned that carbon reductions before 2030 are critical for avoiding catastrophic warming.
Both countries, the agreement stated, "acknowledge the gravity and urgency of the climate crisis," particularly during the "critical decade of the 2020s."
The US has stated that it intends to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, whereas China has indicated that it plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060.
The 2015 Paris climate agreement commits governments to limit global temperature increases to 1.5C to 2C.
According to the United Nations, even with all countries' carbon-cutting efforts combined, the Earth would still warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres applauded the US-China accord. "Addressing the climate crisis will require international cooperation and solidarity, and this is a critical first step in the right direction "He stated on Twitter.
'There is no justification.'
Negotiators are meeting in Glasgow to discuss how to maintain the Paris Agreement's degree limits. At the same time, countries throughout the world are hampered by increasingly severe floods, droughts, and storms exacerbated by rising seas.
Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, stated that countries have "no excuse." "in the event of failure.
Wednesday saw the distribution of draft judgments, the first indication of where nations stand after ten days of intense technical deliberation.
The wording, which is sure to change during ministerial deliberations, urged governments to "revisit and enhance" their commitments "decarbonization plans by next year, rather than the previously agreed 2025 deadline.
The Paris accord includes a "ratchet" mechanism. "Every five years, countries are required to renew their emissions plans.
However, numerous significant emitters failed to meet the 2020 deadline for submitting revised plans, referred to as nationally defined contributions. Others presented projects that were no more — or even less — ambitious than their first proposals.
Vulnerable nations argue that the 2025 date is too distant to achieve necessary short-term carbon reductions.
In what observers saw as a "significant first mention" of the drivers of global warming, the draft summit urged countries to "accelerate the phase-out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies."
Over 100 countries — but not China — signed a promise last week to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
"The joint declaration between the United States and China demonstrates that the two countries can work together to address the climate crisis "Laurence Tubiana is the CEO of the European Climate Foundation and was a key architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement as France's top climate negotiator at the time.
"Now they must work together to ensure a bold outcome at COP26," "she continued. "That means keeping us on track to achieve 1.5 degrees Celsius and providing critical assistance to the most vulnerable."