The U.S. and Chine both, in surprise announcements on Wednesday, agreed to step up their climate change ambitions. Officials from both countries’ climate envoy, in separate statements during a UN COP25 climate summit in Glasgow, confirmed this agreement, just days before the end of the conference.

China climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said in a news conference, “There is more agreement between the U.S. and China than divergence, making it an area of huge potential for cooperation. The release of this joint statement shows again that cooperation is the only choice for both China and the United States. By working together our two countries can achieve many important things that are beneficial not only to our two countries but the world as a whole.”

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said that the agreement “makes a statement about the imperative” for the world’s top two emitters to cooperate.

Kerry added, “It commits to a series of important actions, not in the long term, not in the future, but now. Specifically, it includes a commitment to joint action on reducing methane emissions.”

​Xie did not commit China to the Global Methane Pledge, which has been spearheaded by the US and EU and obliges signatories to slash methane emissions by around a third. Nor did he commit the country to any other majorinternational agreements, saying China wanted “differentiated” responsibilities. However, Xie did say China intends to develop its own national plant for methane.​

The two countries also say they’ll develop additional measures, and will meet during the first half of next year on methane standard for fossil fuels and landfills and incentive programs for agriculture.
Kerry praised the action on methane, noting that it has been identified as the “single fastest and most effective way to limit warming.”

China is the world’s biggest coal consumer, the U.S. is second and India is third. These three countries are the world’s biggest emitters of methane and the biggest consumers of coal. Not one of the three committed out of using coal.

When asked whether China would move up its date to peak its greenhouse gas emissions, which currently is before 2030, Kerry said. “U.S. officials believe that China may have already peaked its emissions and that emissions have plateaued.

According to Kerry, “President Xi has set a timeframe when he believes he can peak, and we had lots of discussions about peaking. What we wanted to make sure was the when China begins that process that it has accepted under its announced plan, that we could try to accelerate and China accepted that they will make the best efforts to accelerate the work of phasing down.”

Kerry added, “The fact that the two countries are the world’s top emitters means they have to help show the way. I think this is only the beginning and if we work hard, we can take this to a better level.”

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