BEIJING – The United States and China said Saturday that they have agreed to intensify efforts to address climate change and to work together to seek a common platform ahead of a global summit on the issue at the end of next year.
The agreement was announced during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, as some of the worst air pollution in almost a year brought visibility down to two or three blocks in Beijing.
In the past, efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions have often foundered because of disagreements between developed and developing nations over how the burden of adjustment should be shared.
If the United States could find common ground with China, it could potentially help to bridge that divide and make it easier to reach agreements with other developing nations such as India. But it was not immediately clear whether Saturday’s joint statement was a sign of meaningful progress.
“In light of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its worsening impacts, and the related issue of air pollution from burning fossil fuels, the United States and China recognize the urgent need for action to meet these twin challenges,” the countries said in a joint statement.
“Both sides reaffirm their commitment to contribute significantly to successful 2015 global efforts to meet this challenge.”
The two countries, which established a working group last year to tackle climate change, said they would “devote significant effort and resources to secure concrete results” by the time they meet for a strategic and economic dialogue later this year.
They also agreed to share information on their respective post-2020 plans to limit greenhouse-gas emissions.
Kerry noted that the United States and China contribute around 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions and said it was “imperative” they work together to ensure that the 2015 U.N. climate summit is a success.
“As the science that has been pouring in over the course of the last year tells us every single day, and as the facts on the ground with droughts, fires and disasters, and acidification of the ocean, and other things happening at an increased pace, it is more urgent that we join together to respond to this problem,” Kerry said at a news conference Friday.
“We need to see if, working together, we could identify any further steps that we may be able to take, specifically with respect to arrival at meaningful targets with respect to the 2015 climate change conference that will take place in Paris in December of next year.”
Developing nations argue that the West bears responsibility for damaging the global environment and should bear the cost of cleaning it up.
In its pursuit of economic growth, China has inflicted enormous damage on its own environment, and greenhouse-gas emissions have risen astronomically because of the country’s dependence on coal.
Nevertheless, the government in Beijing is increasingly concerned about the social, economic and health impacts of pollution.
Last September, China launched a $280 billion plan to clean up its air, including limiting the use of coal and banning high-polluting vehicles. It also asked 15,000 factories to publish real-time data on their air and water emissions in an unprecedented attempt to bring more transparency to the issue.
Kerry flew to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Saturday, where he is scheduled to give a speech Sunday in which he is expected to urge the country to do more to tackle climate change.
© 2014, The Washington Post