US and Chinese flag

Surprise! China and US Come Together at COP26

In an unexpected announcement, the super powers / super polluters vow to work together to get to 1.5C.

The US-China declaration happened yesterday evening. This is 2 days before the official end of COP26. As the world’s biggest CO2 emitters, the nations agreed to collaborate. The aim? To achieve the 1.5C temperature goal enshrined in 2015’s Paris Agreement.

Best of Frenemies

Whilst the pledge hasn’t set out a practical roadmap, it calls for stepped-up efforts to close the “significant gap” to achieve the 1.5C target. It also details agreements on a range of other issues. These include methane emissions, clean energy, and de-carbonization. The global rivals are expected to meet virtually next week to formalise a plan of action. This comes off the back of over 30 pre-summit meetings over the past 10 months. 

In spite of the historic animosity between the superpowers, China’s chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua said, “There is more agreement between China and US than divergence.” The US climate envoy, John Kerry, reiterated this sentiment. “Co-operation is the only way to get this job done,” he said. “Every step matters right now and we have a long journey ahead of us.” They called for stepped-up efforts to close the “significant gap” that remains to achieve that target. China is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060. The US is aiming for net-zero by 2050.

Cautiously COPtimistic

The announcement came as a particular surprise after China’s stance on limiting methane emissions earlier in the week. Whilst the US was one of several key nations that agreed to tackle levels of this greenhouse gas, China refused to sign the agreement. Instead, it offered a “national plan” as an alternative. Both green activists and politicians have cautiously welcomed the joint statement. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the announcement was “an important step in the right direction.” Genevieve Maricle, a World Wildlife Fund director, added, “We must also be clear-eyed about what is still required if the two countries are to deliver the emission reductions necessary in the next nine years”.

The joint declaration was not the only positive development of yesterday evening. A draft of a final COP26 deal was announced. The document calls for countries to up carbon-cutting targets by the end of 2022. Plus, it demands more support for vulnerable nations. Urging other leaders to reach a final deal, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was positive the goal of keeping to 1.5C was still achievable. COP26 President Alok Sharma was equally hopeful, saying, “We all know what is at stake in these negotiations and indeed the urgency of our task.” 

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