Despite Tensions, U.S. and China Agree to Work Together on Climate Change
SEOUL The have said they will fight with the seriousness and urgency that it demands by stepping up efforts to reduce carbon emissions, a rare demonstration of cooperation amid escalating tensions over a raft of other issues. The agreement, which included few specific commitments, was on Saturday night, Washington time, after President Bidens climate envoy, John Kerry, visited China for three days of talks in which the negotiators managed not to be sidetracked by those disputes. Its very important for us to try to keep those other things away, because climate is a life-or-death issue in so many different parts of the world, Mr. Kerry said in an interview on Sunday morning in Seoul, where he met with South Korean officials to discuss global warming. What we need to do is prove we can actually get together, sit down and work on some things constructively. The agreement comes only days before Mr. Biden is scheduled to hold a with world leaders, hoping to prod countries to do more to reduce emissions and limit planetary warming to . Many scientists now argue that warming must be kept below that threshold to avert catastrophic disruptions to life on the planet. Chinas leader, Xi Jinping, is among those who have been invited to the virtual summit. While he has yet to publicly accept the invitation, the agreement with Washington appeared to make his participation more likely. On Friday, Mr. Xi said China remained committed to climate goals he had announced last fall, including a promise that its . At the same time, Mr. Xi suggested that the worlds most advanced nations had a responsibility to take the lead in making deeper cuts. In what seemed to be a retort to the United States, he warned that the climate issue should not be a bargaining chip for geopolitics or an excuse for trade barriers. This is undoubtedly a tough battle, Mr. Xi said in a conference call with President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, according to an account of the meeting . China is sure to act on its words, and its actions are sure to produce results, he went on. We hope that the advanced economies will set an example in momentum for emissions reductions, and also lead the way in fulfilling commitments for climate funding. The White House has signaled that Mr. Biden will announce more ambitious plans for reducing emissions domestically, after four years in which his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, disparaged the issue. Weve seen commitments before where everybody falls short, Mr. Kerry said. I mean, frankly, were all falling short. The entire world right now is falling short. This is not a finger-pointing exercise of one nation alone. Mr. Kerry , Xie Zhenhua, over three days, in talks that at one point went late into the night. Mr. Kerry said they stayed focused on climate change and did not touch on increasingly rancorous disputes over issues like Chinas political crackdown in Hong Kong and . On Friday, even as the two envoys met, the State Department sharply criticized handed down in Hong Kong to prominent pro-democracy leaders, including Jimmy Lai, a 72-year-old newspaper tycoon. On the same day, China the United States and Japan against collusion as , with Chinas rising ambitions one of the major issues on the table. Chinese officials and the state news media noted Mr. Kerrys visit but markedly played it down, focusing instead on Mr. Xis meetings. But in the joint statement with the United States, the Chinese government pledged to do more on climate, though without detailing any specific steps. The statement said that both countries would develop long-term strategies to reach carbon neutrality the point when a country emits no more carbon than it removes from the atmosphere before the next international climate conference in November, in Glasgow. In after the White House meetings between Mr. Biden and Mr. Suga, the United States and Japan said they intended to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 by promoting renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and storage, and through innovations in capturing and recycling carbon from the atmosphere. Despite Mr. Bidens renewed focus on global warming after Mr. Trumps term, Chinese officials have in recent weeks chided the United States for demanding that other countries do more. They noted that Mr. Trump had pulled the United States out of the 2015 , in which most countries committed to targets for reducing emissions. China has since presented itself as the more responsible leader on the issue, even though it is now the worlds worst emitter of carbon dioxide, accounting for 28 percent of the worlds total. The United States is second, at 15 percent. Mr. Xi pledged last year that China would reach carbon neutrality by 2060 and that its emissions would peak before 2030. Environmentalists have welcomed those promises but pressed for more details about the steps China would take to reach them. Mr. Kerry said China was effectively pledging to move more quickly than Mr. Xi had initially promised, by taking enhanced climate actions that raise ambition in the 2020s, as the statement put it. The two countries will continue to meet to discuss the issue, Mr. Kerry added. Chinas new five-year economic plan, unveiled in March, offered few new specifics for reaching Mr. Xis stated emissions goals, raising concerns that they might be more aspirational than actual. China has continued, for example, to approve new plants, one of the leading sources of carbon emissions, prioritizing of an important domestic industry. For a big country with 1.4 billion people, these goals are not easily delivered, Le Yucheng, the vice minister of foreign affairs, told The Associated Press in on Friday. Some countries are asking China to do more on climate change. Im afraid that is not very realistic. Chris Buckley contributed reporting from Sydney, Australia. is the Beijing bureau chief for The New York Times. He joined The Times in 1989 and has previously worked as a correspondent in Moscow, Baghdad and Washington. He is the author of The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2015.