The world’s two largest emitters of carbon emissions, the United States and China, have revealed a new agreement outlining that they will work together to fight climate change this decade.
The deal, which is thought to have surprised many other countries including the host of COP26, the United Kingdom, agrees to reduce methane emissions, phase out coal consumption, limit deforestation, reduce emissions from transport, energy, and industry, and accelerate the transition to a global net zero economy.
Critically, both superpowers acknowledged in the statement they are committed to keeping the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. They also acknowledged there is currently a “significant gap” between current policies and the actions that need to be taken in the 2020s to meet this goal.
“The two sides recall their intention to continue discussing, both on the road to COP 26 and beyond, concrete actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions aimed at keeping the Paris Agreement-aligned temperature limit within reach,” the statement reads.
The deal between the United States and China to put aside their other political differences and work on together on climate is being considered as a major global milestone.
The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres praised the collaboration, saying “Tackling the climate crisis requires international collaboration and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction”.
I welcome today’s agreement between China and the USA to work together to take more ambitious #ClimateAction in this decade.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) November 10, 2021
Tackling the climate crisis requires international collaboration and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction. #COP26
Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate negotiator, told the media there is “more agreement between China and US than divergence”.
“We both see that the challenge of climate change is an existential and severe one,” he said.
“We will take our due responsibilities and work together.”
The news of the climate agreement between the two countries positions Australia as a global outlier when it comes to efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. At COP26, the Morrison government has declined to increase its 2030 emissions reduction target – which currently sits at 26 to 28 per cent – despite pressure from some of its closest allies including the UK and the US.
It’s also been reported that the Australian government is now working with some other countries to water down the terms of the draft Glasgow accord, that was released on Wednesday and is set to be negotiated over the final days of COP26.
The draft of outcomes give countries that have not submitted a new or updated 2030 target at COP26 another 12 months to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 comittments. Australia is reportedly in a group working to have that element of the draft removed.
Australia has also refused to join more than 40 countries that have committed at COP26 to end the use of coal in electricity generation by 2030, and refused to join the global pledge led by US and EU to cut methane emissions, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
Australia’s lack of ambition on climate is truly sinking in for many other nations now. Days ago, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley gave an impassioned plea to wealthy countries to do more. She said a 2 degrees increase in global temperatures would be a “death sentence” for small island nations.
“We do not want that dreaded death sentence, and we have come here today to say, ‘Try harder’,” she said.
“Failure to provide enough critical funding to small island nations is measured in lives and livelihoods in our communities. This is immoral, and it is unjust.
“Are we so blinded and hardened that we can no longer appreciate the cries of humanity?”