US and China announce surprise climate deal at COP26 summit: NPR

The US special envoy for climate change, John Kerry, speaks in a joint statement from China and the United States about a statement that strengthens climate efforts at the COP26 summit.

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The US special envoy for climate change, John Kerry, speaks in a joint statement from China and the United States about a statement that strengthens climate efforts at the COP26 summit.

Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

The United States and China – the world’s two largest countries that emit greenhouse gases, which together account for about 40% of the world’s annual carbon production – announced on Wednesday that they have agreed to work together to reduce emissions to solve the global climate crisis.

The agreement, announced at the UN COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, aims to accelerate emission reductions towards the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. This agreement held world governments accountable for emission reductions that would keep global temperature rise “good”. below “2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, with a measure of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

“It is beneficial not only for our two countries but for the world as a whole that two great powers in the world, China and the United States, take on special international commitments and commitments,” Chinese special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua told reporters at a news conference. “We have to think big and be responsible.”

At a time when China and the United States disagree on other international issues, the agreement declares an intention to take “concrete action” regarding emission reductions and restrictions. It will share policy and technological development, announce new national targets for 2035 by the year 2025 and revive a “multilateral” climate working group.

“I am absolutely convinced that this is the fastest and best way to get China to move from where it is today,” US special envoy John Kerry said in an interview with NPR’s Ari Shapiro.

China’s special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, speaks during the joint China-US declaration at the COP26 climate summit.

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Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images


China’s special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, speaks during the joint China-US declaration at the COP26 climate summit.

Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

A common promise, but a lack of specificity

Kerry acknowledged that the new deal alone was not enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, but he defended its ability to stimulate mutual accountability and action.

“It’s the fastest we can get right now here in Glasgow, but it’s the first time China and the United States have stood up – the two biggest emitters in the world – and said, ‘We will work together to accelerate reduction,'” he said. said Kerry.

“Yesterday was bigger than some people think,” he said separately.

Much of the language of the agreement remains indefinite. For example, China is committing itself to reducing its coal consumption and “making the best effort to speed up this work.”

Kerry said China’s willingness to cooperate, its current state of emissions and its history of “outperforming its own goals” make this deal more ambitious than its critics realize. He also pointed out the importance of the agreement to reduce methane emissions. This is the first time the Chinese government has promised to address the issue, and one for which the United States announced new rules earlier this month.

“If we have reached the goal that we have set for a 30% reduction in methane by 2030,” Kerry said, “it is equivalent to taking all the cars in the world, all the trucks in the world, all the planes in the world, all the ships in the world. “Down to zero. That’s how big it is. That’s what’s on the table.”

Kerry also expressed confidence that the terms of this agreement and COP26 would be translated into action.

“The key to Glasgow is not the words here,” he said. “It is the promises and goals that have been given and the implementation. And we are going to be an implementation force in the wake of this meeting.”

The role of the United States in the global picture

Kerry also addressed criticism from representatives of nations that are among the most vulnerable to climate change, and issues of US leadership in climate issues.

Developing countries have called on wealthy nations to uphold a 2009 pledge at a UN climate summit in Copenhagen to channel $ 100 billion a year to less affluent countries to help them adapt to climate change. Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate says the promise in 2021 has not yet been fulfilled.

“And it’s so unfair to countries on the front lines of a climate crisis that this climate funding has been delayed for several years,” she told NPR earlier this week.

“I hope she will not hold the Biden administration accountable to Donald Trump,” Kerry replied. “The reason it’s not been money in the last few years when Donald Trump shut it down, he withdrew from the Paris Agreement. But from the moment President Biden took office, he has been fixated on help raise that money. “

He also said that his talks with the six largest banks in the United States and talks with philanthropists and foundations would also result in funding measured in trillions of dollars.

Kerry also answered questions that the U.S. Congress could not adopt President Biden’s domestic spending plan, which includes funding to tackle climate change. He acknowledged that having completed legislation to show “help, no doubt” in international credibility, but expressed confidence that it would not harm the negotiation process. He also predicted it would go over “in the next two weeks.”

“I think that [climate] the problem itself [is] so convincing that people are ready to respond to the actions people say they are willing to take, “Kerry said.” And by the way, the United States has pretty good faith in that. Because we have done what we have said, we will do with these things. “

As the COP26 summit went into its final day, Kerry said he was hoping for fair cooperation and consensus. He also spoke about the need to raise funding to deal with a world already affected by climate change.

“We need to help countries adapt. There needs to be a greater focus on adaptation,” he said. “Yes, that means tying up money … money and technology and assistance. We are ready to do that. We also need strong countermeasures, because if you do not mitigate enough, you will never be able to adapt your way out of this problem. “

Kerry acknowledged the US moral responsibility to provide solutions to climate change given its history of contributing to the problem.

“And yes, we have a basic moral obligation to do this,” Kerry said. “Because we are the richest country on the planet. We are the second largest emitter, and we have been doing this for a long time. And the accumulated results of what we have done are up in the atmosphere and causing damage, and we need to be aware of that. on.”

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