It comes after Washington and Beijing struck a surprising deal at COP26 to boost climate cooperation over the next decade. The world’s two biggest CO2 emitters pledged to act in a joint declaration. It says both sides will “recall their firm commitment to work together” to achieve the 1.5C temperature goal set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The pair called to step-up efforts to close the “significant gap” that remains to achieve that target.
In Wednesday’s rare joint declaration, there were steps agreed on a range of issues including methane emissions, the transition to clean energy, and de-carbonisation.
China’s top climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua told reporters that on climate change “there is more agreement between China and US than divergence”.
US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are expected to hold a virtual meeting on Monday as tensions appear to thaw.
The summit presents the biggest opportunity yet to reset the bilateral relationship.
No major breakthroughs are expected on hot-button issues, including tensions over Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
But the meeting is likely to produce initiatives on a range of issues, including easing of visa restrictions, the creation of a bilateral nuclear weapons dialogue and a possible framework to ease trade frictions to demonstrate bilateral resolve to move the relationship from confrontation to cooperation.
Following the announcement, Mr Xi sent a warning about returning to Cold War-era tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
He urged urging global cooperation ahead of the virtual meeting.
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In a recorded video message to a CEO forum on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Xi said on Wednesday that attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds were bound to fail.
He said: “The Asia-Pacific region cannot and should not relapse into the confrontation and division of the Cold War era.”
Mr Xi remarks appeared to be a reference to US efforts with regional allies and partners including the Quad grouping with India, Japan and Australia, to blunt what they see as China’s growing influence.
In his speech at the APEC forum, Xi also outlined what he thought were the most pressing tasks for the Asia Pacific region – emerging from the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and achieving steady economic recovery.
He added: “We should translate the consensus that vaccines are a global public good into concrete actions to ensure their fair and equitable distribution.”
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The week-long APEC forum is being conducted entirely online.
Deep divisions run through the group, which include the US, China, Taiwan, Russia, and Australia, and accounts for nearly three billion people and nearly 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Greenpeace has welcomed the declaration between China and the US, but warned that both countries needed to show greater commitment to reaching climate goals.
She said: “Ultimately their statement falls short of the call by the climate vulnerable countries demanding that nations come back to the table every year with greater ambition until the 1.5C gap is closed”.
EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said it was “really encouraging” to see China and the US working together. “It shows also that the US and China know this subject transcends other issues. And it certainly helps us here at COP to come to an agreement”, he added.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the announcement was “an important step in the right direction.”
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