China and the United States have pledged to increase cooperation on climate action at U.N. talks in Glasgow, China’s climate envoy said Wednesday.
As Friday approached, Xie Zihua informed reporters that two of the largest carbon polluters will outline their efforts to meet the deadline in a joint statement based off the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The agreement calls for “concrete and pragmatic’’ regulations in decarbonization, reducing methane emissions and fighting deforestation, Xie said.
“Both sides recognize that there is a gap between the current effort and the Paris agreement,” he said. “So we will jointly strengthen climate action and cooperation with respect to our respective national situations.”
John Kerry, U.S. ambassador to the climate was due to talk to journalists later on Wednesday.
This announcement was made as world governments were meeting in Glasgow to discuss how to improve on the Paris Agreement and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while protecting vulnerable countries from the effects of global warming.
The draft agreement released Wednesday proposes to end coal power as the largest source of human-made greenhouse gases emissions.
The early version of the final document also expresses “alarm and concern” about how much Earth has already warmed and urges countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about half by 2030. Pledges so far from governments don’t add up to that frequently stated goal.
Some nations, especially island states whose very existence is threatened by climate change, warned that the draft didn’t go far enough in requiring action to limit increases in global temperatures or in helping poorer countries to pay for adapting to the warming and for losses from it.
“‘Urging,’ ‘calling,’ ‘encouraging,’ and ‘inviting’ is not the decisive language that this moment calls for,” Aubrey Webson, Antigua and Barbuda’s U.N. ambassador, said in a statement.
With time running out in the climate summit, a clear message had to be sent, he added: “To our children, and the most vulnerable communities, that we hear you and we are taking this seriously.”
Governments agreed in Paris to jointly reduce emissions enough to keep the global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, with a more stringent target of trying to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) preferred.
That would require a dramatic reduction in emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas that remain the world’s top source of energy despite the growth of renewables like wind and solar power. However, establishing deadlines to phase out fossil fuels can be very sensitive for countries like China or India that depend on them for their economic growth and major coal exporters such as Australia. The future of coal is also a hot-button issue in the United States, where a spat among Democrats has held up one of President Joe Biden’s signature climate bills.
The draft calls for accelerating “the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels,” though it sets no timeline.
Greenpeace International director Jennifer Morgan, a long-time climate talks observer, said that the call in the draft to phase out coal and subsidies for fossil fuels would be a first in a U.N. climate deal, but the lack of a timeline would limit the pledge’s effectiveness.
“This isn’t the plan to solve the climate emergency. This won’t give the kids on the streets the confidence that they’ll need,” Morgan said.
Frans Timmermans, European Union’s climate chief was happier about the negotiation.
“Consider my sleeves rolled. We’re ready and willing to make sure we deliver on the highest possible levels of ambition, leading to prompt global action,” he said.
The draft is likely to change, but it doesn’t yet include full agreements on the three major goals that the U.N. set going into the negotiations: for rich nations to give poorer ones $100 billion a year in climate aid, to ensure that half of that money goes to adapting to worsening global warming, and the pledge to slash global carbon emissions by 2030.
The draft acknowledges “with regret” that rich nations have failed to live up to the climate finance pledge. Currently they are providing around $80 billion a year, which poorer nations that need financial help both in developing green energy systems and adapting to the worst of climate change say isn’t enough.
Papua New Guinea Environment Minister Wera Mori said given the lack of financial aid that his country may “rethink” efforts to cut logging, coal mining and even coming to the U.N. talks.
The draft says the world should try to achieve “net-zero (emissions) around mid-century,” a target that was endorsed by leaders of the Group of 20 biggest economies in a summit just before the Glasgow talks. This means that countries must limit the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere.
Highlighting the challenge of meeting those goals, the document “expresses alarm and concern that human activities have caused around 1.1°C (2°F) of global warming to date and that impacts are already being felt in every region.”
On other matters being considered at the talks were released separate proposals. They included international carbon market rules and reporting frequency for countries.
The draft calls on countries that don’t have national goals that are in line with the 1.5- or 2-degree limits to come back with stronger targets next year. The provision may apply to all countries, depending on the way it is read.
“This is crucial language,’’ World Resources Institute International Climate Initiative Director David Waskow said Wednesday. “Countries really are expected and are on the hook to do something in that timeframe to adjust.’’
In a nod to one of the big issues for poorer countries, the draft vaguely “urges” developed nations to compensate developing countries for “loss and damage,” a phrase that some rich nations don’t like. However, there is no financial guarantee.
As the talks enter their final stage, Britain’s Alok Sharma, who is chairing the negotiations, acknowledged that “significant issues remain unresolved.”
“My big, big ask of all of you is to please come armed with the currency of compromise,” he told negotiators as they prepared for another long night of talks. “What we agree in Glasgow will set the future for our children and grandchildren, and I know that we will not want to fail them.”
Helena Alves, Helen Knickmeyer, and Ellen Knickmeyer were Associated Press reporters who contributed to the report.