WASHINGTON – China and the United States, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, have reached a new agreement to take urgent measures to curb climate change.
The two countries said in a joint statement late Saturday that they “are committed to cooperating with each other” and other nations to deal with the climate crisis “with the seriousness and urgency that it demands.”
U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry and Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua reached the agreement during three days of talks last week in Shanghai, just days ahead of the virtual summit on the issue being hosted this week by U.S. President Joe Biden.
Kerry told reporters in Seoul on Sunday that he considers the language of the document to be “strong” and that China and U.S. agreed on “critical elements on where we have to go.”
But Kerry, a former U.S. secretary of state and the losing Democratic candidate for president in 2004, added, “I learned in diplomacy that you don’t put your back on the words, you put on actions. We all need to see what happens.”
China, the world’s biggest carbon polluter, and the second worst, the United States, emit nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes that are warming the planet’s atmosphere. Their cooperation would be crucial in combating man-made pollution.
The U.S., the world’s biggest economy, and No. 2 China, are trade rivals across the globe and have contentious relations on human rights and China’s territorial claims surrounding Taiwan, which the U.S. supplies with military weapons even as it continues its “one China” policy, recognizing Beijing as the sole Chinese government.
Kerry noted that China is the world’s biggest coal user and discussed ways to transition to other forms of energy.
“I have never shied away from expressing our views shared by many, many people that it is imperative to reduce coal, everywhere,” he said.
Su Wei, a member of the Chinese negotiation team, told state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday that the two countries reached a consensus for future cooperation on climate issues.
Biden has invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the climate summit on Thursday and Friday.