The world’s two biggest emitters must help show the way on climate action, John Kerry has said as the US and China announced joint plans to boost efforts in the 2020s.
In a move that could boost momentum going into the final 48 hours of the Cop26 talks, the two countries released a “joint Glasgow declaration on enhancing climate action in the 2020s” setting out how they would work together to cut emissions.
China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said there was more agreement between China and the US on climate change than divergence, making it an area with huge potential for future cooperation.
The statement – which appears to have taken the UK hosts of the summit by surprise – recognises the urgency and seriousness of the climate crisis and the need to increase action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius of warming or to 1.5 degrees.
Mr Kerry, who is the US climate envoy, said the statement commits to a series of important actions “during this decade when it is needed”.
That includes working together to limit the powerful greenhouse gas methane, setting out the need to phase down unabated coal in this decade, as fast as is achievable, supporting successful Cop26 talks and both countries agreeing to enforce their respective laws on deforestation, he said.
Mr Kerry said: “The United States and China have no shortage of differences, but on climate, co-operation is the only way to get this job done.
“This is not a discretionary thing, frankly, this is science, it’s maths and physics that dictate the road that we have to travel. And we cannot reach our goals unless all of us work together.
“Every country, China and the United States particularly, as the two largest emitters in the world, both have to help show the way.
“We need to raise ambition and we need to take action in this decisive decade.”
Mr Xie said: “We will jointly strengthen climate action and cooperation with respect to our national situations and circumstances to accelerate a green and low carbon transition.”
He said: “Climate change is a common challenge shared by humanity, it bears on the wellbeing of future generations.
“Now climate change is becoming increasingly urgent and severe, (turning) it from a future challenge to an existential crisis.”
He continued: “In the area of climate change, there is more agreement between China and the US than divergence, making it an area with huge potential for future cooperation.
“We are two days away from the end of the Glasgow Cop so we are hopeful that this joint declaration can make China and the US’s contribution to the success of Cop26.”
Boris Johnson’s climate spokeswoman has welcomed the joint declaration to fight global warming but said time would be needed to consider the details.
Allegra Stratton told Channel 4 News: “Clearly it is welcome that the world’s two biggest emitters have decided to work together to bring down carbon emissions.
“But you will have to give us time to digest the detail of what they are calling their declaration.”