The U.S. and China — the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions — agreed Tuesday to work to dramatically expand renewable energy in the hopes of phasing out fossil fuels.
The State Department released a statement announcing the new cooperation plan after months of negotiations between White House climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua. It represents a major effort to see both nations dramatically ramp up efforts to address climate change and the first time China has agreed to set targets to cut emissions for its economy, The New York Times reports.
“Both countries support the G20 Leaders Declaration to pursue efforts to triple renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 and intend to sufficiently accelerate renewable energy deployment in their respective economies,” the pledge says, noting that doing so would “accelerate the substitution for coal, oil and gas generation.”
Beijing, the world’s largest carbon polluter, also agreed to set reduction targets for all greenhouse gas emissions, not just carbon dioxide. Other gases, namely methane, represent a smaller proportion of overall greenhouse gas emissions but are far more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
In statements Tuesday, the two countries said they were “alarmed by the best available scientific findings” and remained committed to the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. That pledge, from 2015, saw almost every nation in the world agree to try and keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“The United States and China recognize that the climate crisis has increasingly affected countries around the world,” the statement reads. “They are aware of the important role they play in terms of both national responses and working together cooperatively to address the goals of the Paris Agreement and promote multilateralism.”
The statements were released a day before President Joe Biden is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. While the agreement does not include firm targets, it does note that the U.S. and China will “immediately” begin dialogue to set them.
Scientists agree that a 1.5 degree level of warming would set off catastrophic levels of planetary change, from melting sea ice and the loss of permafrost to a sharp increase in severe weather and heatwaves.
The planet has already warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times.
The statement comes just two weeks before the world’s climate envoys are set to convene in Dubai for the United Nations’ 28th climate conference, known as COP28. The U.S. also on Tuesday released its latest National Climate Assessment, which found climate change is already impacting Americans in every corner of the nation with “far-reaching and worsening” might.
“Anyone who willfully denies the impact of climate change is condemning the American people to a very dangerous future. Impacts are only going to get worse, more frequent, more ferocious and more costly,” Biden said during the report’s unveiling, per The Associated Press. “None of this is inevitable.”