SEOUL, South Korea — The United States and China, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, agreed to cooperate in curbing climate change with urgency, just days before President Joe Biden hosts a virtual summit of world leaders to discuss the issue. According to a joint statement, the agreement was reached by U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua during two days of talks in Shanghai last week. The two countries “are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands,” said the statement issued Saturday evening U.S. time.
Meeting with reporters in Seoul on Sunday, Kerry said the language in the statement is “strong” and that the two countries agreed on “critical elements on where we have to go.” But the former secretary of state said, “I learned in diplomacy that you don’t put your back on the words, you put on actions. We all need to see what happens.”
China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, followed by the United States. The two countries pump out nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes warming the planet’s atmosphere. Their cooperation is key to the success of global efforts to curb climate change. Still, frayed ties over human rights, trade, and China’s territorial claims to Taiwan and the South China Sea threaten to undermine such efforts.
Noting that China is the world’s biggest coal user, Kerry said he and Chinese officials had a lot of discussions on how to accelerate a global energy transition. “I have never shied away from expressing our views shared by many, many people that it is imperative to reduce coal everywhere,” he said.
Su Wei, a member of the Chinese negotiation team, told state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday that a major accomplishment of the talks was “restarting the dialogue and cooperation between China and the United States on climate change issues.” Su said the two countries reached a consensus on critical areas for future cooperation on climate issues.
Biden has invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the April 22-23 summit. The U.S. and other countries are expected to announce more ambitious national targets for cutting carbon emissions ahead of or at the meeting, along with pledging financial help for climate efforts by less wealthy nations.