COP26: U.S., China announce deal

The COP26 climate deal comes as large climate protests continue in Glasgow

By Ivy Lewis and Sophie Boulter, Staff Writer and World News Editor

The United States and China agreed to cooperate on global emissions targets on Wednesday during the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). COP26, hosted in Glasgow, Scotland, began on Oct. 31 and ends tomorrow, Nov. 12.

The two main goals of the conference include keeping climate change to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels and developing a strategy to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. China and the U.S. agreed to set enhanced climate change targets in hopes of setting an example for more than 120 other countries gathered at the conference. 

“The two largest economies in the world have agreed to work together on emissions in this decisive decade,” John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, said.

They announced the agreement in a joint declaration titled “The China U.S. Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s.”

“Climate change is becoming an increasingly urgent challenge. We hope this joint declaration will help to achieve success at COP26,” Xie Zhenhua, China’s head of delegation, said.

Photo courtesy of
Xie Zhenhua, China’s head of its COP26 delegation, helped broker the summit’s most prominent deal so far. The U.S. and China agreed to work together on reaching climate pledges and reducing emissions.

China did not commit itself to any specific international agreements, however, and rejected calls from the U.S. and Europe to join the Global Methane Pledge. This pledge aims to slash methane emissions by around one-third.

Meanwhile, protests have erupted in Glasgow, with protestors arguing that the pledges proposed by the COP26 are not enough to slow climate change in coming decades. 

Youth activist Greta Thunberg criticized the conference while leading a large “Fridays for Future” protest, stating that the summit’s proposed reforms offer insufficient changes to the status quo.

“Fighting to save our life-supporting systems isn’t radical at all,” Thunberg said.

“We don’t need any more distant, non-binding pledges.”

As part of the COP26 conference, the 2015 Paris Agreement — an international initiative urging collective action against climate change — is being reexamined by negotiators and policymakers to better reflect the current global state of climate change. World leaders have made more ambitious pledges on how they plan to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, also called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The conference has attracted criticism from some experts in the scientific community who argue that the COP26 does not address the disproportionate level of carbon emissions produced by the wealthiest 1% of the global population.

The top 1% is projected to produce 30 times the amount of greenhouse gas they would be expected to produce based on size, while the top 10% is expected to produce nine times their allotment. 

The lowest 50% is expected to produce a carbon footprint lower than the replacement rate.

In order to reach the COP26’s goal of net-zero emission by 2050, nations would have to agree to policies that limit emission to the amount the planet can absorb.

“Their oversized emissions are fueling extreme weather around the world and jeopardizing the international goal of limiting global heating,” climate scientist Naftoke Dabi explained.