Unexpected agreement between China and the United States at COP26 in Glasgow

The United States and Beijing “recognize the gap between current efforts and the goals of the Paris Agreement,” a Chinese official said.

This is the big surprise of the week in Glasgow, behind the scenes of the COP26 climate conference. China and the United States, the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet, have concluded a ” joint declaration on strengthening climate action ”Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua announced Wednesday evening in Glasgow. “Both parties recognize the gap between current efforts and the goals of the Paris Agreement, so we will jointly strengthen climate action”, the Chinese official told reporters.

This agreement “Shows that cooperation is the only way for China and the United States, Xie Zhenhua said, as tensions between the two countries recently seemed to spill over into the climate diplomacy issue. US President Joe Biden, who came to Glasgow at the start of the conference last week, called the absence at COP26 of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping a “big mistake”. China also shocked many people by announcing, during the first week of the COP in Glasgow, that it would immediately increase its consumption of coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels, to meet an extremely high demand for electricity. strong at this time.
“As the two main world powers, China and the United States must take responsibility for working together and with other parties to combat climate change,” the Chinese envoy said.

Limit methane emissions as quickly as possible

The joint declaration recognizes that more efforts must be made during the current decade than those announced by the countries to be able to hope to achieve the objective of the Paris agreement, which was to limit warming to 1.5 ° C. more by the end of the century. US climate envoy John Kerry told reporters at a press conference that“We must act faster during this decade (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, editor’s note), not because China or the United States say so, but because that’s what science tells us . “

The text does not precisely describe the national efforts that the two countries must take, and in particular how to decrease the consumption of coal in China, but it does mention cooperation in the field of the fight against deforestation, in the transfer of technologies and in limiting the release of methane (natural gas). The Chinese envoy explained that his country was going to put in place “a national plan” on methane, in order to reduce emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas. The latest IPCC report highlighted the urgency of limiting methane emissions as quickly as possible, which would allow for a more rapid effect to prevent global warming.

This joint declaration between the two largest powers a few days before the end of the negotiations in Glasgow is seen by experts as a positive signal, despite a geopolitical context which has hitherto been very tense.
The Glasgow climate conference is considered crucial, while the world is, according to the UN, on a “catastrophic” trajectory of warming to + 2.7 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era, well beyond objectives of the Paris agreement which aims for a limited warming “well below” 2 ° C and if possible at 1.5 ° C.

SEE ALSO – “No excuse” for failing at COP26: the British Prime Minister calls for a last effort

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