China and the United States have agreed to resume stalled cooperation on the climate crisis, curbing methane and plastic pollution before this month’s crucial COP28 UN climate summit held in Dubai.
Wednesday’s announcement follows a meeting between US climate envoy John Kerry and Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua earlier this month at the Sunnylands resort in California.
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Following a pause driven by political differences, the world’s biggest polluters on pledged to establish a bilateral working group on climate action and ensure the success of COP28.
“The United States and China recognize that the climate crisis has increasingly affected countries around the world,” a joint statement said on Wednesday.
The countries declared their intention to “work together … to rise up to one of the greatest challenges of our time for present and future generations of humankind”.
The United States and China said they support a declaration by G20 leaders to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and also agreed to “accelerate the substitution for coal, oil and gas generation”.
The joint statement said they anticipate “meaningful” reductions in emissions from the power sector this decade, but it fell short of calling for the phasing out of fossil fuels, a goal that China has described as “unrealistic”.
Both sides also agreed to include methane in their 2035 climate goals – the first time China has made such a pledge – and committed to advancing “at least five” large-scale cooperation projects in carbon capture, utilisation and storage by the end of the decade.
The cooperation was disrupted due to a hiatus triggered in 2022 by the visit of former House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, a self-governing island that China claims.
Li Shuo, incoming director of the China Climate Hub at the Asia Society, described the relationship between the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters as “a precondition for meaningful global progress”.
The agreement will help “stabilise the politics” ahead of Dubai talks, he said.
With 2023 expected to become the warmest year in human history, scientists say the pressure on world leaders to curb planet-heating greenhouse gas pollution has never been more urgent.
Methane is the second-biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide, and in the short term has a far higher warming effect.
The European Union has revamped efforts to pressure international suppliers ahead of the summit.
New EU law
Negotiators from EU member states and the European Parliament agreed on a new law on Wednesday to impose “maximum methane intensity values” and thus limit emissions on the bloc’s oil and gas imports from 2030.
“Finally, the EU tackles the second most important greenhouse gas with ambitious measures,” said Jutta Paulus, the EU Parliament’s co-lead negotiator, adding that the law “will have repercussions worldwide”.
Key gas suppliers such as the US and Russia are likely to be most affected by the law when it gets final approval from the European Parliament and EU countries.
The deal obliges oil and gas producers in the bloc to regularly check for and fix leaks of the potent greenhouse gas in their operations.
It also bans most cases of flaring and venting, when companies intentionally burn off or release unwanted methane into the atmosphere, from 2025 or 2027 depending on the type of infrastructure.