This is from my colleague Fiona Harvey.
China and the US announced a surprise plan to work together on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the crucial next decade, in a strong boost to the Cop26 summit, as negotiators wrangled over a draft outcome.
The world’s two biggest emitters had been trading insults since before the start of the conference, but on Wednesday evening unveiled a joint declaration that would see the world’s two biggest economies cooperate closely on the emissions cuts scientists say are needed in the next ten years to stay within 1.5C.
The remarkable turnaround came as a surprise to the UK hosts, and will send a strong signal to the 190-plus other countries at the talks. China and the US will work together on some key specific areas, such as cutting methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – and emissions from transport, energy and industry.
Xie Zhenhua, China’s head of delegation, said: “Climate change is becoming an increasingly urgent challenge.We hope this joint declaration will help to achieve success at Cop26.”
John Kerry said: “The two largest economies in the world have agreed to work together on emissions in this decisive decade.”
The China US Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s came despite growing political tensions between the two powers, that had been reflected in the climate talks. In his parting shot at the conference, Joe Biden on Tuesday slammed China’s president Xi Jinping for “not turning up”. After that, Xie took a swipe at the US in an interview with the Guardian, saying: “We are not like some countries who withdrew from the Paris Agreement after entering into talks.”
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Reaction on the China US declaration from climate scientist and author Simon Lewis here.
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While we are waiting for Kerry’s press conference to start it is worth saying that this already feels like a big moment at Cop26. The world’s two most powerful countries – and biggest emitters – have done what feels like a fairly far reaching deal setting out ongoing co-operation over the next decade across a wide range of issues.
Xie says he hopes to create a global carbon market to enhance efforts to tackle emissions. Then he says that is the end of the press conference as John Kerry is waiting outside and wants to give his briefing.
The full declaration is now available here online. It states:
The United States and China, alarmed by reports including the Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report released on August 9th, 2021, further recognize the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis.
The two sides intend to cooperate on:
a. regulatory frameworks and environmental standards related to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the 2020s;
b. maximizing the societal benefits of the clean energy transition;
c. policies to encourage decarbonization and electrification of end-use sectors;
d. key areas related to the circular economy, such as green design and renewable resource utilization; and
e. deployment and application of technology such as CCUS and direct air capture.
Recognizing specifically the significant role that emissions of methane play in increasing temperatures, both countries consider increased action to control and reduce such emissions to be a matter of necessity in the 2020s. To this end:
a. The two countries intend to cooperate to enhance the measurement of methane emissions; to exchange information on their respective policies and programs for strengthening management and control of methane; and to foster joint research into methane emission reduction challenges and solutions.
b. The United States has announced the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan.
c. Taking into account the above cooperation, as appropriate, the two sides intend to do the following before COP 27:
i. They intend to develop additional measures to enhance methane emission control, at both the national and sub-national levels.
ii. In addition to its recently communicated NDC, China intends to develop a comprehensive and ambitious National Action Plan on methane aiming to achieve a significant effect on methane emissions control and reductions in the 2020s.
d. The United States and China intend to convene a meeting in the first half of 2022 to focus on the specifics of enhancing measurement and mitigation of methane, including through standards to reduce methane from the fossil and waste sectors, as well as incentives and programs to reduce methane from the agricultural sector.
In order to reduce CO2 emissions:
a. The two countries intend to cooperate on:
i. Policies that support the effective integration of high shares of low-cost intermittent renewable energy;
ii. Transmission policies that encourage efficient balancing of electricity supply and demand across broad geographies;
iii. Distributed generation policies that encourage integration of solar, storage, and other clean power solutions closer to electricity users; and
iv. Energy efficiency policies and standards to reduce electricity waste.
b. The United States has set a goal to reach 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.
c. China will phase down coal consumption during the 15th Five Year Plan and make best efforts to accelerate this work.
Recognizing that eliminating global illegal deforestation would contribute meaningfully to the effort to reach the Paris goals, the two countries welcome the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. The two sides intend to engage collaboratively in support of eliminating global illegal deforestation through effectively enforcing their respective laws on banning illegal imports.
Xie is now taking questions and said a joint working group between China and the US would meet in the first half of next year and would focus on methane reduction, decarbonisation and deforestation.
China and US to ‘actively address climate change and through co-operation’
Xie said China and US needed to “think big and be responsible” and “actively address climate change and through cooperation” bring huge benefits to people around the world.
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It seems like China and US are planning to work together across a wide range of climate issues. Xie Zhenhua said the two countries intended to put their cooperation on a firmer footing in the years ahead.
He said climate change was a common challenge faced by humanity and was an existential threat. He said that on climate change there was more agreement than divergence between China and US and he hoped this new declaration would help make Cop26 a success.
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He said both sides had agreed to cooperate on renewable energy rollout and decarbonising the energy system. He said China planned to set up its own methane reduction plan to work alongside the deal set out by the US and others last week.
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He said the US and China had reached agreement on climate finance, NDCs and would work with other countries to tackle other issues.
He said both countries had reiterated the Paris goal and committed to adapt to an “enhanced climate action” progress in the 2020s.
The press conference has started and China’s climate spokesman Xie Zhenhua has announced a “China-US joint Glasgow declaration on enhancing climate action”.
He said since the beginning of this year the two teams had been working in dialogue, have had 30 virtual meetings and have reached an agreement.
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We are expecting a press conference from the Chinese delegation shortly. It is not clear (at least to me) what the main thrust of it will be but my colleague Fiona Harvey is there and we will keep us updated.
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Not many people addressing Cop26 are speaking up for fossil fuels openly (though it appears hundreds probably are behind closed doors), but Yury Sentyurin, the secretary general of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, gave it a go today. The GECF includes Russia, Iran, Nigeria and Qatar.
Sentyurin ticked off all the industry talking points. “Natural gas complements intermittent renewables,” he said. Hundreds of millions of people in Africa without access to electricity or clean cooking fuel should “use gas as the core source of energy”.
“We believe sincerely that natural gas does offer the balanced solution that the world seeks to achieve sustainable development goals,” he concluded.
The problem is not many agree these days that gas should be a bridge fuel between coal and renewables. That’s because burning gas still produces a lot of CO2, time is very short to halt the climate emergency and renewables are getting ever cheaper.
Last week, a report from Climate Analytics (the team behind the alarming 2.4C projection that made headlines yesterday) dismissed the arguments for gas. “Gas is not a bridging fuel, blue hydrogen is not a bridging technology, ultimately, gas is a bridge to nowhere. All governments concerned about climate change who have stated their support for transitioning to a 1.5C world need to understand one thing: gas is the new coal,” said Bill Hare at CA.
In September, a scientific study found that 59% of existing gas reserves must stay in the ground to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C.
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This is a quick report of Johnson’s speech from my colleague Peter Walker.
Boris Johnson has urged fellow world leaders to make a final effort in negotiations as Cop26 draws to a close, warning them that failure to reach an effective agreement would bring an “immense” and well-deserved backlash from around the globe.
Speaking at the start of a press conference as he made his second visit to Glasgow, the UK prime minister called for “a determined push to get us over the line” – and said some countries had not done enough to achieve this.
Leaders not in Glasgow needed to “pick up the phone to their teams here and give them the negotiating margin, give them the space they need in which to manoeuvre and get this done”, Johnson said.
“Here in Glasgow the world is closer than it has ever been to signalling the beginning of the end of anthropogenic climate change, and it’s the greatest gift we can possibly bestow on our children and our grandchildren and generations unborn.
“We just need to reach out together and grasp it. And so my question to my fellow world leaders this afternoon as we enter the last hours of Cop is – will you help us do that, will you help us graph that opportunity, or will you stand in the way?”
Johnson criticised some countries, which he did not name, for “conspicuously patting themselves on the back” for signing up to the Paris climate accord but doing too little at Cop.
Citing speeches to the conference such as one given at the start by Mia Mottley, the Barbados prime minister, who called for concerted action, Johnson said: “If you stood and applauded her then, you cannot now sit on your hands as the world asks you to act. Because the world knows what a mess our planet is in.
“The world will find it absolutely incomprehensible if we fail to deliver that. And the backlash from people will be immense and it will be long-lasting, and frankly we will deserve their criticism and their opprobrium.
“Because we know what needs to be done, and we all agree what needs to be done. We just need the courage, actually, to get on and do it.
“So now is the time for everyone to come together and show the determination needed to power on through the blockages.”
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With the prime minister’s brief intervention seemingly over it is worth remembering this is supposed to be transport day at Cop26.
My colleague Severin Carrell has this update on the failure to tackle global aviation emissions.
Transport campaigners have roundly condemned a decision to postpone for at least a year any detailed proposals to curb the global aviation industry’s climate emissions, unveiled during transport day at the Cop summit.
A declaration backed by 20 states who are the first to join the international aviation climate ambition coalition (IACAC) was published on Wednesday, signed by some major economies such as the UK, US, Japan and France. But other major economies – Germany, China, Russia, and India – were noticeably absent.
It commits signatories to “align” aviation with the Paris target of limiting temperature increases to 1.5C, but has postponed adopting interim reduction targets and strategies until an assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation – the industry’s governing body, in a year’s time.
Cait Hewitt, policy director of the Aviation Environment Federation, said: “Our politicians seem to be living in a fairytale world where the aviation sector quits its dependence on fossil fuels – and overcomes all the barriers that have existed so far to decarbonisation – at no cost and with no need to curb passenger growth.
“We need our leaders to stop pretending that these targets can be achieved just through new fuels and technofixes.”
At present, airlines and manufacturers are focusing on “sustainable aviation fuel”, carbon-based fuels that replace or dilute kerosene; carbon offsetting; electrification and hydrogen-fueled aircraft. But there is little expectation green technologies will work on long-haul flights for many years.
Haldane Dodd, of the air transport action group in Geneva, told an audience at the summit only 6.5% of global aviation fuel needs would be met by sustainable biofuel sources by 2030.
Mira Kapfinger, from the coalition group Stay Grounded, said the technical fixes were illusory and failed to tackled the core issue with aviation: its unrestricted growth and its failure to pay the true environment costs.
“More flights mean more emissions – that’s why any serious climate deal for aviation must include measures to reduce air traffic in rich countries,” she said. “IACAC relies on the same strategies that have been proven not to work for years such as offsets and the wait for technological solutions that will not be ready for decades.”
Pete Buttigieg, the US transport secretary, told the summit the US, which emits the most aviation emissions per capita of any major country, had yesterday committed its aviation sector to meeting the 2050 net zero target which has already been endorsed by ICAO.
It would target 20% lower aviation emissions by 2030, he said, but added that the laws of physics dictated how fast new low carbon technologies could be found, tested and deployed.
“It’s a significant contributor to climate change and without dramatic urgent action, there will be a substantial additional growth in emissions, so it falls to us to limit those emissions urgently: the question becomes will we act quickly enough,” he said.
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One small but important point that is worth flagging up. Johnson said during the press conference that the UK would look at what is being proposed by Denmark and Costa Rica who are organising a coalition of countries committed to phasing out oil and gas production. It gave the impression that this was the first the UK had heard of the plans, but as my colleague Damian Carrington reported this morning, the UK government has already said it is not signing up.
And with that Johnson leaves the stage telling the audience he is heading back to London. Short and typically light on specifics. I am not sure that brief intervention is really going to move the dial much on the negotiations.
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