US and China announce cooperation to reduce methane, plastic pollution


The United States and China have announced a joint agreement in addressing methane and plastic pollution ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

How it happened: The agreement was reached during a meeting between climate envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua from Nov. 4-7 in Sunnylands, California. Reviving a bilateral climate working group, they agreed to cooperate and focus on areas such as reducing methane emissions, enhancing efficiency, promoting the circular economy and exchanging information on emission reduction policies and technologies.

The joint statement reflects a crucial effort to re-align the two major greenhouse gas emitters before the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28). The working group’s relaunch comes after a year of strained relations; Beijing previously cut off climate talks with Washington in response to former House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

What they are saying: Both nations pledged to support the G20 leaders’ declaration to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and expressed commitment to economy-wide reductions of all greenhouse gasses by 2035. The agreement marked China’s first commitment to including methane in its 2035 climate goals and collaborating on large-scale carbon capture, utilization and storage projects.

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“The United States and China recognize that the climate crisis has increasingly affected countries around the world,” the Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis reads.

“Both countries stress the importance of COP 28 in responding meaningfully to the climate crisis during this critical decade and beyond. They are aware of the important role they play in terms of both national responses and working together cooperatively to address the goals of the Paris Agreement and promote multilateralism. They will work together and with other Parties to the Convention and the Paris Agreement to rise up to one of the greatest challenges of our time for present and future generations of humankind.”

Divided on fossil fuels: The agreement is seen as a crucial step before the upcoming climate talks. However, the statement stopped short of endorsing the phasing out of fossil fuels, with China deeming the goal “unrealistic.” As such, challenges remain, with China being urged to halt the approval of new coal power projects.

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“The US-China talks will help stabilize the politics when countries meet in the UAE, but critical issues such as fossil fuel phase out still require much political efforts," said Li Shuo, the director of China Climate Hub at the Asia Society Policy Institute. "China also needs to consider what further ambition can be brought to the COP. Stopping the approval of new coal power projects is a good next step."


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