context: Although new concrete details are scarce in this declaration, its main purpose will be to dissolve fears that bilateral tensions will stand in the way of success at COP26, as well as building momentum behind the two countries’ cooperation, paving the way for future meetings and stronger engagement. It also reaffirms that climate change may be considered a standalone issue in the bilateral relationship.

The US and China jointly issued ‘US–China joint Glasgow declaration on enhancing climate action in the 2020s’ on 10 Nov 2021 at UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COP26 in Glasgow.

The two countries have agreed to establish a ‘Working group on enhancing climate action in the 2020s’ which will meet regularly to address the climate crisis, focusing on concrete action in the 2020s.

The joint declaration offers few new concrete measures, but its important points, according to Wu Changhua 吴昌华 Professional Association for China’s Environment executive director, include

  • reaffirmed commitment to the goal of limiting warming to well below 2 degrees C, aiming for 1.5 degrees C
  • support for the US$100 bn annual financial support goal from 2020-25
  • emphasis on adaptability and resilience
  • emphasis on technologies needed to reduce emissions
  • commitment to resolving Articles 6 and 13 of the Paris Agreement at COP26

The declaration also specifies

  • that current global efforts are insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement
    • intentions to close the gap by cooperation, tech innovation and stepped-up efforts
  • intentions to cooperate on
    • regulatory frameworks and environmental standards
    • maximising societal benefits of clean energy transition
    • policies to decarbonise and electrify end-use sectors
    • circular economy, particularly green design and renewable resource utilisation
    • CCUS and direct air capture
  • commitments to reducing methane emissions this decade by
    • cooperating on measuring emissions
    • exchanging information on policies for controlling methane
    • fostering research into methane challenges and solutions
    • developing additional methane control measures before COP27
    • on China’s part, developing a national action plan on methane before COP27
    • convening a meeting in H1 2022 to discuss specifics of measuring and mitigating methane emissions, especially via standards for fossil and waste sectors and incentives to reduce methane emissions in ag
  • both countries will communicate 2035 NDCs in 2025

China’s support for reducing methane emissions can be regarded as tacit approval of US-led global efforts in this field, explains Wu.