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China, U.S. agree on need for stronger climate commitments

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter outside the building of an American company in Beijing

SHANGHAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -China and the United States agree that stronger pledges to fight climate change should be introduced before a new round of international talks at the end of the year, the two countries said in a joint statement on Sunday.

The statement came after a meeting between Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry, in Shanghai on Thursday and Friday, China's environment ministry said.

"The United States and China are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis," their joint statement said. The two countries will continue to discuss "concrete actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions aimed at keeping the Paris Agreement-aligned temperature limit within reach."

Kerry arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday night under tight COVID-19 protocols and was transferred to a secluded hotel not open to the public. He subsequently traveled to Seoul.

His stop in Shanghai was the first high-level visit to China by a Biden administration official since the new president took office, and followed a contentious exchange between officials from the two countries in March in Alaska.

The talks also mark a resumption of climate dialogue between the world's two biggest greenhouse gas emitters. Bilateral discussions ground to a halt during the administration of Donald Trump, who withdrew from the 2015 Paris agreement after claiming it unfairly punished U.S. businesses.

The United States is expected soon to deliver a new pledge to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to win back trust from foreign allies. Biden brought the United States back into the Paris climate accord.

Li Shuo, senior climate adviser for the environmental group Greenpeace, said China could soon respond to a new U.S. pledge with one of its own, building on the "momentum" of the Shanghai talks.

"The statement in my view is as positive as the politics would allow: It sends a very unequivocal message that on this particular issue (China and the United States) will cooperate. Before the meetings in Shanghai this was not a message that we could assume," Li said.

Biden will hold a virtual summit for dozens of world leaders this week to discuss climate change, to be livestreamed for public viewing. Global climate talks are scheduled Nov. 1-12 in Glasgow.

The statement said the two countries also agreed to discuss specific emission reduction actions including energy storage, carbon capture and hydrogen. They said they would take action to maximise financing for developing countries to switch to low-carbon energy sources.

The Paris agreement encourages countries to submit more ambitious climate pledges if they are able to do so. China has already promised enhanced actions as it tries to meet its goal to become "carbon neutral" by 2060.

(Reporting by David Stanway in Shanghai, David Shepardson and Phil Stewart in Washington; Additional reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)