Road to COP28

China, US to launch working group on climate action

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China and the United States will launch a working group on climate cooperation, both countries said Wednesday, as the two sides work to deepen communication and mend fractured ties with a leaders’ meeting in San Francisco just hours away.

Xi Jinping and Joe Biden will huddle on the sidelines of the APEC summit in California for their first encounter in a year as trade tensions, sanctions and the question of Taiwan have fueled quarrels between Washington and Beijing.

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Climate has long been seen as an area where the two can find common ground, with US and Chinese climate envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua meeting November 4-7 at the Sunnylands retreat in California in a bid to restart stalled cooperation.

In a joint statement published in Chinese state media and released by the US State Department following those meetings, the two governments said the group would focus on “energy transition, methane, circular economy and resource efficiency, low-carbon and sustainable provinces/states and cities, and deforestation”.

It will see them “engage in dialogue and cooperation to accelerate concrete climate actions”, the statement said.

The two sides agreed to “work together and with other parties” to “rise up to one of the greatest challenges of our time for present and future generations of humankind”, their statement said.

They will also restart “bilateral dialogues on energy policies and strategies”, it pledged, and “deepen policy exchanges on energy-saving and carbon-reducing solutions”.

The United States and China will also “immediately initiate technical working group cooperation” on the reduction of methane, of which China is the world’s biggest emitter.

Beijing last week unveiled a broad plan to control its emissions of the gas, though it offered no specific target for reducing them.

But in their joint statement, the two sides agreed to “develop their respective methane reduction actions/targets” for inclusion in their 2035 emission-cutting plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs.

They also re-committed to the 2015 Paris climate accord goals of holding global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.

Countries are set to meet in Dubai later this month for the COP28 summit.

With temperatures soaring and 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.

And success at that summit will hinge on agreement between the United States and China, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters.

Asked about what he expected from talks with Xi, Biden on Tuesday characterised the meeting as a chance to right ties that have floundered in recent years.

“We’re not trying to decouple from China. What we’re trying to do is change the relationship for the better,” Biden told reporters at the White House before heading to San Francisco.

He said he wanted “to get back on a normal course of corresponding; being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another if there’s a crisis; being able to make sure our (militaries) still have contact with one another”.

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