US, China pledge joint action on climate change despite strained ties

The United States and China are committed to working together to urgently address climate change despite mounting tensions over Beijing’s assertive policies in Taiwan and the South China Sea and on human rights to Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, climate envoys for the world’s two largest economies, pledged to cooperate “to tackle the climate crisis”, committing to “concrete actions in the 2020s” to reduce emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement targets.

“The two countries recall their historic contribution to the development, adoption, signing and entry into force of the Paris Agreement through their leadership and collaboration,” they said in a joint statement.

The engagement, which follows two days of high-stakes meetings in Shanghai, is a signal that climate change may be a rare area of ​​collaboration in a strained relationship.

The climate policy of US President Joe Biden has already strayed sharply from that of the administration of his predecessor Donald Trump, bringing the United States back into the Paris Agreement before setting a new climate target for 2030.

As part of the Paris agreement, countries pledged to limit global warming to “well below” 2 ° C, preferably around 1.5 ° C, above pre-industrial levels, by 2100 .

However, with the meetings between Kerry and Xie in Shanghai approaching, environmentalists said a U.S.-China climate change deal was far from guaranteed.

Li Shuo, an energy policy official at Greenpeace in Beijing, said the US-China statement followed “difficult discussions” and came “in the midst of great geopolitical challenges.” But it is expected to dramatically increase the momentum for climate action globally.

“It is very important for the rest of the world to understand that at least on the issue of climate change, the G2 is united again,” Li said.

He added: “We all know what could happen when these countries are aligned on this particular issue because we have all seen it in the run-up to the Paris climate summit.”

Kerry’s trip to China preceded a US summit this week, which was touted as a showcase for Biden’s new climate policies, and as Beijing struggles to be seen as a leader in global climate negotiations .

In the declaration, countries pledged to cooperate in multilateral processes. This includes the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement, as well as the COP26 climate change conference to be held in Glasgow in November.

“The United States and China will continue to discuss, both on the road to COP 26 and beyond, concrete actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions aimed at keeping the aligned temperature limit within reach. on the Paris Agreement, ”said Kerry and Xie.

Edgare Kerkwijk, board member of the Asia Wind Energy Association, said that while the US-China statement “provides only high-level commitment” and lacks details, the joint pledges will accelerate the global transition of fossil fuels.

“The likelihood that we will reach a more comprehensive climate deal at the next climate conference in Glasgow has increased dramatically,” Kerkwijk said, adding: “It will be more difficult for small economies not to join the transition process. energetic. “

The meetings took place amid intensifying clashes between Washington and Beijing as Joe Biden’s administration maintains a difficult posture towards China.

The United States opposes Beijing’s actions to reduce Hong Kong’s autonomy and human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

He also kept the pressure on tech companies with suspected ties to the Chinese military.

In the latest outbreak, the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. capital on Saturday criticized comments by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Biden opposing an escalation of military activity near Taiwan and in the South China Sea.

Follow @ftclimate on Instagram

Climate capital

Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Check Out FT Coverage Here