China and US make surprise climate pledge: 'Fascinating development'

The US and China have made a surprise joint announcement, dramatically boosting hope that COP26 will end with a meaningful outcome.

Described as a "fascinating development" and a "remarkable turn of events" the two opposing superpowers, and the world's two largest emitters, say they will mutually work to reduce greenhouse gases this decade.

In a joint statement released at the summit in Glasgow this morning, China and the United States said they will communicate their 2035 targets for cutting climate-warming emissions ten years early in 2025.

US special climate envoy, John Kerry speaks during a joint China and US statement on a declaration enhancing climate action in the 2020s. Source: Getty
US special climate envoy, John Kerry speaks during a joint China and US statement on a declaration enhancing climate action in the 2020s. Source: Getty

The declaration said the two countries also planned to improve the measurement of methane emissions before the next climate summit, COP27, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, next year.

It said China plans to develop an ambitious and comprehensive action plan to bring down methane emissions in the 2020s.

The unlikely alliance outlined a range of areas where the two countries will cooperate with each other and their fellow nations to reduce emissions.

But most of the announcement was delivered in broad and fairly vague terms, with specific details to be seemingly delivered in the future.

China and the United States "further recognise the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis" and pledged "concrete actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions aimed at keeping the Paris Agreement-aligned temperature limit within reach," the statement said.

"They are committed to tackling it through their respective accelerated actions in the critical decade of the 2020s, as well as through cooperation in multilateral processes ... to avoid catastrophic impacts."

China said it intends to develop a comprehensive and ambitious National Action Plan on methane emissions control.

The two countries will convene a meeting in the first half of 2022 dedicated to "enhancing measurement and mitigation of methane, including through standards to reduce methane from the fossil and waste sectors."

China also pledged its "best effort" to reduce CO2 emissions by accelerating the phase out of coal consumption in its 15 year plan.

The US, meanwhile, has set a goal to reach 100 per cent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.

Australia could be left isolated by methane approach

Nearly 90 countries have joined a US and EU-led effort to slash emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane 30 per cent by 2030, from 2020 levels.

Methane is some 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide due to its higher heat-trapping potential.

However the Australian federal government fears that cutting methane emissions by as much as 30 per cent would threaten the nation's gas and coal sectors, and require "culling herd sizes" of methane-belching livestock.

Australia has ruled out reducing methane emissions, while top-five methane emitters China, Russia and India have also not signed onto the pledge.

Britain organised the COP 26 meeting which aims to secure net zero carbon emissions pledges and keep the Paris Agreement target of a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise within reach to curb the impact of global warming.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is not attending the United Nations meeting in person. Instead, last week he delivered a written statement to the opening section of the summit, when leaders usually give speeches.

In the statement, he had offered no additional pledges, while urging countries to keep their promises and "strengthen mutual trust and cooperation".

with Reuters

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