US and China announce surprise declaration to work together on climate

The United States and China have released a rare joint declaration on climate change, saying “there is more agreement between China and the US than divergence”.

The world’s biggest polluters commit to “enhanced climate actions that raise ambition” in the “critical decade of the 2020s”.

US climate envoy John Kerry told reporters at the climate conference in Glasgow that though the countries have their differences, on climate change cooperation is the only way to get the job done.

Speaking through an interpreter, China’s top negotiator Xie Zhenhua said China would strengthen its emissions-cutting targets.

The joint statement promises “enhanced climate actions that raise ambition” in the “critical decade of the 2020s”.

It sets out plans to work together on tackling the potent gas methane – a key way of cutting short-term warning – and agrees on the need to step up on stopping deforestation.

The declaration, somewhat patchy on detail, was agreed just hours before it was announced on Wednesday evening.

China and climate change expert Bernice Lee said it should “dissolve any fears that US-China tensions will stand in the way of success at COP26.

“But the statement is not enough to close the deal. The real test of Washington and Beijing is how hard they push for a 1.5C aligned deal here in Glasgow,” she said.

Boris Johnson returned to Glasgow today in an attempt to propel the talks forward in their final few days.

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Boris Johnson calls on world leaders to come to a compromise in the last hours to the COP26 agreement deadline.

The prime minister voiced frustration at countries who have “spent six years conspicuously patting themselves on the back” after signing the Paris Agreement. He accused them of “quietly edging toward default, now that vulnerable nations and future generations are demanding payment here now in Glasgow.”

There is an expectation on the UK as COP26 host to get a good outcome and the first draft of an agreement was published on Wednesday morning.

It “calls upon” parties to “accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”.

Such a phrase has never appeared in a final UN climate text so its likely to be highly contested, for example by fossil fuel exporters like Saudi Arabia or those still highly dependent on coal.

Another bone of contention may well be the section urging nations to revisit and strengthen their 2030 carbon emissions targets by the end of 2022.

Meeting the Paris Agreement target of limiting warming to “well below” 2C and ideally 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, requires “meaningful and effective” action in “this critical decade”, the draft text says.

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Pearnel Charles Jr is Jamaica’s climate change minister, leading the country’s negotiations at COP26 and co-chair of the NDC partnership.

“At 1.5C, Jamaica loses beaches, coral reef dies and employment plummets. Crime goes up,” he told Sky News.

For his island nation, getting an ambitious deal in Glasgow is the difference between someone’s “daughter going to school” or being able to work as a fisherman because your work has “vanished”, he said.

Scientists warn that keeping temperature rises to 1.5C, beyond which climate change will hit even harder, requires slashing global emissions by 45% by 2030.

But the planet is already around 1.1C hotter and on Tuesday an independent assessment found current plans set us on a path of 2.4C of warming.

A tense back and forth between negotiators, ministers and leaders will ensue as almost 200 countries desperately seek to strike a final deal by the end of the week. A “near final” version is expected to be published overnight.

While the commitment to 1.5C has been welcomed by some, others have criticised a lack of progress on loss and damage, which refers to the damages from climate change to things like homes, jobs, coastlines and lives.

Tasneem Essop, chief of Climate Action Network, told Sky News: “We echo the calls from small island states and other developing countries that the time to deliver funding for loss and damage is now. This is a matter of climate justice and human rights.”

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Irish ex-president emotional over climate talks

On the thorny issue of climate finance, the text urges funding for developing nations to go “beyond USD 100 billion per year”, a target set for 2020 but likely not to be met until 2023.

It also pressures developed countries to give “greater clarity” on how they are going to meet their funding promises.

Who and how the world pays for developing nations – who often have contributed little to climate change but are highly vulnerable to it – to cope with a hotter world has been a sticking point in previous COP summits.

Highlights from COP26 so far

• US and Canada are among 20 nations to agree to stop fossil fuel financing by the end of 2022

• At least 23 nations say they will phase out coal power in 2030s or 2040s depending on size, including Indonesia, Vietnam, and Ukraine

• The UK will force financial firms and major businesses to publish plans about how they will get to net zero

• Firms controlling 40% of global assets totalling $130 trillion agreed to align with the Paris Agreement, a pledge met with scepticism

• At least 110 countries representing 85% of the world’s forests agreed to end and reverse deforestation by 2030.

• South Africa, the most coal-intensive economy in the G20, will get $8.5bn to help decarbonise from the UK the EU, the US, France and Germany, in an innovative partnership that shows how side deals agreed outside of the traditional UN process can help close the emissions gap.

• Scores of world leaders signed a pledge to slash potent climate heating gas methane by 30% by 2030, a gas that could significantly help slow short term warming

• A group of countries, companies and cities committed to phasing out fossil-fuel vehicles by 2040, as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions and curb global warming.

• Over 40 world leaders back plan to fund clean technology around the world by 2030, the UK government announced

• India finally came forward with a net zero promise – the 2070 target is 20 years later than the key 2050 date but still a big step forward, especially with its commitment to significantly slash emissions by 2030

• Five countries, including Britain and the United States, and a group of global charities promised $1.7bn to support indigenous people’s conservation of forests and strengthen their land rights

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