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COP26: The United States and China make a mutual commitment to increase climate cooperation




COP26 appeared more unlikely to fulfill its main goal: persuading the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters to agree to reduce their emissions sufficiently to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as laid out in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Chairman Alok Sharma’s Thoughts

Alok Sharma of the United Kingdom, who is chairing the COP26 talks, admitted that “major concerns remain unsolved” in the larger talks among all the countries attending the summit.

“Please come armed with the money of compromise,” he warned negotiators. “What we agree on in Glasgow will shape our children’s and grandchildren’s futures, and I know we will not want to let them down.”

UN Secretary-General’s Hopes

As the talks approached their last hours, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that hopes for a deal to meet that goal were “on life support,” but that “hope should be maintained to the last moment.”

Guterres told The Associated Press ahead of his speech at the summit that the negotiations in Glasgow would “very likely” fail to provide the carbon-cutting promises needed to protect the earth from warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Aim of the Paris Convention and work done

Governments decided in Paris to work together to decrease emissions to keep global warming “far below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, with a more strict target of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) favored.

This would necessitate a significant reduction in emissions from the burning of coal, oil, and gas, which, despite the growth of renewables like wind and solar power, remain the world’s top sources of energy. Setting deadlines for phasing out fossil fuels, however, is extremely sensitive to countries that still rely on them for economic growth, such as China and India, as well as significant coal exporters like Australia.

USA & China

The United States and China, the world’s two greatest carbon dioxide polluters, have announced a deal to increase cooperation in combating climate change, including decreasing methane emissions, safeguarding forests, and phasing out coal. Around 40% of global carbon pollution is caused by the United States and China.

The framework agreement was unveiled at the United Nations climate conference in Scotland by US climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart XieZhenhua and was promoted by both as a method to help the summit succeed.

“Both sides recognize that existing efforts fall short of the Paris Agreement’s goals, therefore we will work together to strengthen climate action,” China’s climate envoy XieZhenhua said in announcing the agreement.

Xie claimed that the accord will include “concrete steps” for more action this decade and that both countries will “work on the finalization of the Paris Agreement rulebook” at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow.

The governments also agreed to reduce methane emissions, according to US climate envoy John Kerry, and the agreement with China was a show of support for a successful United Nations climate conference. Last week, US Vice President Joe Biden said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had “walked away” from the climate crisis by not attending the COP26 meeting. At the time, China reacted, but ties appear to have improved ahead of long-awaited bilateral talks.

China will tighten its emissions-cutting targets and build a national plan on methane, Xie told reporters through an interpreter. Both countries, he added, intended to do more to combat deforestation.

In 2025, both Washington and Beijing want to update the world on their new national targets for 2035, a step that will be especially crucial for China. China would also “make best efforts to accelerate” its goals to reduce coal usage in the second half of this decade, according to the declaration.

However, other experts pointed out that the agreement lacked pledges that would result in major reductions in heat-trapping gases.

“It’s a fantastic indicator that the world’s two biggest emitters can genuinely work together to confront humanity’s greatest challenge, but there’s not a lot of meat thereafter the methane stuff,” Byford Tsang, a China policy specialist for the European think tank E3G, said.

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