The United States and China, the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, have agreed to cooperate on climate change with seriousness and urgency, according to a joint statement issued on April 17.
Climate change is among President Joe Biden’s highest priorities. He had the United States rejoin the Paris climate accord in the first hours of his presidency, undoing the U.S. withdrawal ordered by President Donald Trump.
He will host a two-day virtual summit April 22–23 to discuss the issue, and has invited about 40 world leaders, including Chinese leader Xi Jinping, to participate.
To prepare for the summit, Biden sent U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry to Asia, with the joint statement coming after a two days of meetings between Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in Shanghai on April 15 and 16.
ChinaChina, the world’s biggest carbon polluter, announced in September 2020 that it would be carbon-neutral by 2060 and aims to reach a peak in its emissions by 2030, meaning it can continue to increase emissions for the next nine years.
Le Yucheng, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs, told the Associated Press that with regard to accelerating China’s carbon reduction targets, “I’m afraid this is not very realistic."
Le claimed that “China is still a primary school student while the developed countries are middle school students [on climate change]. Now if you ask primary school and middle school students to graduate at the same time, it is against the natural course of growth, so it’s unrealistic.”
Joint-StatementThe U.S. side is aware of China’s reluctance on cutting carbon emission.
Kerry commented that the joint-statement was written in “strong” language, but “I’ve learned in diplomacy that you don’t put your bet on the words, you put your bet on the actions, and we all need to see what happens.”
Su said: “Both countries should act independently, based on its responsibilities and national conditions.”
By announcing the joint-statement, both the United States and China pledged to work hard to reach their national targets as well as “take appropriate actions to maximize international investment and finance in support of the transition from carbon-intensive fossil fuel based energy to green, low-carbon, and renewable energy in developing countries.”