An unexpected agreement between the US and China to work together on cutting emissions has been broadly welcomed by leaders and climate experts.
The world’s two biggest emitters appeared to put aside their differences at the Cop26 climate summit and on Wednesday unveiled a joint declaration that would see close cooperation on emissions cuts that scientists say are needed in the next 10 years to stay within 1.5C.
The agreement calls for “concrete and pragmatic” regulations in decarbonisation, reducing methane emissions and fighting deforestation, Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said in Glasgow.
The two countries will revive a working group that will “meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, focusing on enhancing concrete actions in this decade,” the joint declaration said.
Global leaders and climate experts broadly welcomed the agreement, with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres calling the move “an important step in the right direction”.
Genevieve Maricle, director of US climate policy action at WWF, said the world’s two largest economies “have the power to unlock vast financial flows from the public and private sectors that can speed the transition to a low carbon economy.”
A US-China bilateral agreement in 2014 gave a huge push to the creation of the historic Paris accord the following year, but that cooperation stopped with the Trump administration, which pulled America out of the pact.
“While this is not a gamechanger in the way the 2014 US-China climate deal was, in many ways it’s just as much of a step forward given the geopolitical state of the relationship,” said Thom Woodroofe, an expert in US-China climate talks. “It means the intense level of US-China dialogue on climate can now begin to translate into cooperation.”
EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans agreed the pact gave room for hope. “It shows … that the US and China know this subject transcends other issues. And it certainly helps us here at Cop26 to come to an agreement,” Timmermans told Reuters.
The Climate Council head of research, Dr Simon Bradshaw, described the focus on accelerating action this decade as “significant”.
Still, some experts noted the declaration was short on commitments that would significantly reduce heat-trapping gases.
“It’s a good sign that the world’s two biggest emitters can actually work together to face the biggest crisis of humanity but there’s not a lot of meat there after the methane stuff,” said Byford Tsang a China policy analyst for the European think tank E3G.
Bernice Lee, research director at Chatham House, said while cooperation between the US and China was positive “details remain patchy”.
“The statement is not enough to close the deal. The real test of Washington and Beijing is how hard they push for a 1.5C-aligned deal here in Glasgow.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report