The United States and China agree to displace fossil fuels by increasing renewable energy | ET REALITY


The United States and China, the world’s two biggest climate polluters, have agreed to jointly address global warming by increasing wind, solar and other renewable energy with the goal of displacing fossil fuels, the State Department said Tuesday.

The announcement comes as President Biden prepares to meet with President Xi Jinping of China on Wednesday for their first face-to-face conversation in a year. The climate deal could emerge as a bright spot in talks that are likely to focus on sensitive issues such as Taiwan, the war in Ukraine and the war between Israel and Hamas.

Cooperation statements released separately by the United States and China do not include a promise by China to phase out its intensive use of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, or to stop permitting and building new coal plants. That has been a sticking point for the United States in months of discussions with Beijing over climate change.

But both countries agreed to “continue efforts to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030.” That growth should reach levels high enough “to accelerate the substitution of coal, oil and gas generation,” the agreement says. Both countries anticipate a “significant and absolute reduction in energy sector emissions” this decade, he says. This appears to be the first time China has agreed to reduce emissions in any part of its economy.

The agreement comes two weeks before representatives from nearly 200 countries converge on Dubai as part of the United Nations climate talks known as COP28. The United States and China have a huge role to play there as nations debate whether to phase out fossil fuels.

Earlier this month, John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, met with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, at the Sunnylands estate in California to lay the groundwork for the deal announced Tuesday.

“The United States and China recognize that the climate crisis has increasingly affected countries around the world,” said the Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Tackle the Climate Crisis says.

“Both countries emphasize the importance of COP 28 to respond meaningfully to the climate crisis during this critical decade and beyond” and commit in the declaration “to rise to one of the greatest challenges of our time for the present and future generations of humanity.”

As part of the deal, China agreed to set reduction targets for all greenhouse gas emissions. This is significant because the current Chinese climate goal addresses only carbon dioxide, leaving out methane, nitrous oxide and other gases that act as a blanket around the planet.

Methane arises from oil and gas operations, as well as coal mining, and can be 80 percent more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term.

The Chinese government last week released a long-awaited plan to tackle methane, but analysts dismissed it as ineffective because it lacked emissions reduction targets.

The Sunnylands agreement also lacks targets, but says the two countries will work together to set them.

China has refused to join the Global Methane Commitment, an agreement between more than 150 nations, led by the United States and Europe, that promises to collectively reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

The United States and China also agreed that in the next set of climate commitments, which nations are supposed to present in 2025, China will set emissions reduction targets across its economy. Its current pledge calls for carbon dioxide emissions to peak before 2030, but does not specify how high they could go before the curve begins to bend or specify by how much emissions could be reduced.

Manish Bapna, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, praised the U.S.-China deal as “a foundation of ambition” ahead of the U.N. climate summit in Dubai.

“This sends a powerful message of cooperation in the face of the existential challenge of our time,” Bapna said. “The important thing now is that both countries fulfill their promise today.”

The agreement is the product of months of negotiations between Kerry, 79, and Xie, 73, friends and climate interlocutors for more than 25 years. Both came out of retirement to become their countries’ climate envoys and have advocated for climate change diplomacy within their governments. Xie, who suffered a stroke last year, is expected to retire after the UN summit in Dubai.

Their negotiations stalled in 2022 after Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the House of Representatives, traveled to Taiwan, a move Beijing considered provocative. Then, earlier this year, a U.S. fighter jet shot down a Chinese spy balloon floating over the continental United States.

In July, amid the Biden administration’s efforts to improve ties, Kerry traveled to Beijing.

That effort did not end in success. Xi took advantage of Kerry’s visit to deliver a speech in which he declared that China would never be “influenced by others” in its climate goals.

Still, Kerry said optimistically at the time that “we set the stage” for a deal.

When it comes to climate change, no relationship is as important as that between the United States and China.

The United States, the largest climate polluter in history, and China, the largest current polluter, together account for 38 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.

That means the two countries’ willingness to urgently reduce emissions will essentially determine whether the nations can limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

That is the threshold beyond which scientists say increasingly severe wildfires, floods, heat and drought will exceed humanity’s ability to adapt. The planet has already warmed 1.2 degrees.

But neither the United States nor China will act quickly unless the other does. Both nations are taking steps to address emissions, but hardliners in each country argue the other is not doing enough, and each country has called the other’s climate promises insincere.

While the United States has reduced its emissions, Chinese officials have said that the American goal of reducing its pollution by at least 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of this decade is inadequate.

China’s leaders are also acutely aware of the partisan divide in the United States over climate change and have little confidence that a future administration will deliver on promises made by Biden. Most Republican presidential candidates refuse to acknowledge established science on climate change, and front-runner Donald Trump has vowed to halt climate action and encourage more oil drilling, fracking and coal mining.

American lawmakers, on the other hand, point out that China’s emissions continue to grow and that the country has so far only promised to peak sometime before 2030 and then maintain a plateau before falling. This is unacceptable to most members of Congress, who believe that China, the world’s second-largest economy, should advance at a pace similar to that of the United States.

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