The United States and China both promised action on climate change on Wednesday, ahead of a planned meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping aiming to stabilize the strained relations between the two powers.
The climate crisis is “one of the greatest challenges of our time,” the two sides said in a joint statement published by China’s official news agency Xinhua.
Washington and Beijing both reaffirmed the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a treaty aiming to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius – and if possible 1.5 degrees – above pre-industrial levels.
The move to expand cooperation between China and the US on climate issues comes ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP 28, to be held in Dubai later this month.
China is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide, followed by the US, though when it comes to per capita emissions, the US is ahead of China.
China is only planning to gradually reduce its emissions from 2030, a strategy seen as incompatible with the goals of the Paris agreement.
Cooperation on climate is a ray of hope in the strained relations between the two powers, but the first personal exchange between Biden and Xi in about a year is set to take place on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC) summit in San Francisco.
Biden and Xi have not seen each other in person since the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali a year ago.
The US side said that the aim of the talks was to organize competition between the two countries in a responsible manner, secure channels of communication, and avoid a drift into military conflict.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said this week that China wanted relations to be put back on a “stable path.”
The meeting is expected to last several hours. A trade fight, accusations of espionage, tensions surrounding Taiwan and China’s stance in the Ukraine war have frayed ties.
The two sides are also due to discuss the fight against drug smuggling into the United States at their meeting, the White House said on Tuesday.
Illicit drugs coming out of China are on the agenda, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said. The US government accuses China of being a key contributor to the country’s drug epidemic through the production of fentanyl, which is being smuggled into the US in large volumes.
The synthetic opioid is 50 times stronger than heroin and has led to a devastating drug crisis in the country.
Spokeswoman Mao warned that Beijing was unwilling to budge when it came to Taiwan and its territorial claims in the South China Sea – two points of contention that has raised the spectre of war.
Sill, in recent months both sides have endeavoured to revive dialogue with each other. The presidential meeting was preceded by numerous meetings between high-ranking members of government from both countries. (DPA)