After some friction between China and the United States in recent days at the Glasgow summit, the so-called COP26, the two main powers of the world have signed a climate peace this Wednesday afternoon. The heads of the delegations of both nations present at the UN negotiations have presented a joint declaration in which they commit to working to accelerate the fight against climate change during this decade. Among the highlights of the pact that both powers have reached is China’s commitment to present over the next year a comprehensive plan to reduce its emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for around 25% of current warming .
The United States and the European Union have sponsored a pact within the framework of this summit to reduce these emissions, to which 103 countries had joined. That agreement sets the goal of achieving a 30% reduction in anthropogenic methane by 2030. China, however, had refused to join. Now it still does not do so, but the Government of the Asian giant is committed to “developing a comprehensive and ambitious national action plan on methane with the aim of achieving a significant effect on the control and reductions of methane emissions in the 1990s. 2020 ″, according to the joint statement released by both governments.
John Kerry, the US government’s special envoy for climate change, and Xie Zhenhua, the head of the Chinese delegation at COP26, have been responsible for presenting the statement, albeit in separate press conferences. Kerry has recognized that the two powers – which emit the most greenhouse gases into the world’s atmosphere – have important differences in many fields. But he added: “We can cooperate in the fight against the climate crisis.” Kerry highlighted from the declaration precisely the agreement on methane, which commits both parties to “exchange information on their respective policies and programs to strengthen the management and control” of this gas. In addition, they should “promote joint research on the challenges and solutions for reducing” this gas.
Xie Zhenhua, for his part, has announced the creation of a working group to monitor the progress of measures related to methane, but also those that affect deforestation and renewable energy. The first meeting of that group will be in the first half of 2022, said the Chinese negotiator.
Both countries currently accumulate about 40% of world emissions: China 27% and the United States 11%. But his cut promises for this decade are very different. The United States, with the arrival of Joe Biden to the White House, has committed to practically halving its emissions by 2030. China, however, for the moment only maintains the commitment to reach its peak of emissions before 2030 and from from that moment reduce them. Although the US goal is ambitious, Biden’s plan is running into trouble for development in Congress. In addition, the threat of a Republican party victory that will lead the US to withdraw from the climate fight remains latent. On the Chinese side, the problem is not so much one of the credibility of its policies, but one of ambition.
The declaration released by both countries recognizes that there is a gap between the plans that as a whole have presented all the countries and what is needed to comply with the Paris Agreement. This pact establishes that warming should not exceed 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels and, as far as possible, 1.5 degrees. But the sum of global efforts for this decade does not now lead to that goal, but leads to a warming of between 2.4 and 2.7 degrees. Both nations admit in their statement “that there continues to be a significant gap between those efforts.” “The two sides underline the vital importance of closing that gap as soon as possible, in particular through intensified efforts ”, they add.
But one of the main reasons for this gap is that China has set itself the unambitious goal of reaching peak emissions in 2030. At the Glasgow climate summit, a formula is being sought to urge countries to increase their programs of cut back immediately, over the next year. And many glances are directed towards China when one thinks about that necessary increase of the plans of cut. The joint statement released Wednesday, however, does not address this issue directly.
The declaration also serves to seal that climate peace between the two powers. During his time at the Glasgow summit, President Joe Biden criticized the presidents of China and the United States, who decided not to participate in the opening of COP26 in person. “The great importance of this is geopolitics,” says Nick Mabey, executive director of E3G, a statement released on Wednesday. think tank specialized in climate change. In his opinion, the declaration means that the United States and China announce that they will “end the war of declarations” of the last days.
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