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The China-U.S. deal to collaborate on climate issues is a small step forward

Earlier this week, the U.S. and China issued a joint declaration on how the two nations would work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the global negotiations on climate change organized by the United Nations.

Announced on Wednesday during the 26th climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, the deal covers cutting carbon dioxide and methane emissions and deforestation.

It builds on the multi-national commitments which were made to kick off the summit last week, and try to curb global warming to "well below" 2ºC and try to hit the 1.5ºC warming target laid out in the Paris Agreement (the first multinational treaty with commitments from nearly every country to limit emissions and address climate change).

The two nations, "recognize the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis. They are committed to tackling it through their respective accelerated actions in the critical decade of the 2020s, as well as through cooperation in multilateral processes, including the UNFCCC process, to avoid catastrophic impacts," the statement read.

So far, environmental advocates and watchdogs are cautiously optimistic about the agreement between the two economic giants and the world's two largest emitters of the greenhouse gases.

“The unexpected and welcome joint declaration between the United States and China represents an important commitment between the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. No less relevant in the context of this agreement, they are also the two largest economies in the world. Between them they have the power to unlock vast financial flows from the public and private sectors that can speed the transition to a low carbon economy," said Genevieve Maricle, director of US climate policy action at WWF.

“This announcement... offers new hope that, with the support and backing of two of the world’s most critical voices, we may be able to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees. But we must also be clear eyed about what is still required if the two countries are to deliver the emission reductions necessary in the next nine years. 1.5C-alignment will require a whole-of-economy response," Maricle said in the statement.

The agreement could have serious implications for renewable power projects and developers in the U.S. And it may already be showing results.

On the same day that the joint statement was released, the U.S. decided not to pursue an investigation into whether Chinese solar companies were trying to get around tariffs imposed on panels made in China by manufacturing in Southeast Asian nations.

As Bloomberg News reported, a probe could have led to higher prices on supplies from South Asian countries made up roughly 80% of the solar panels and other products imported into the U.S. through June of this year. Those additional costs could undercut U.S. ambitions to have a zero-emission power grid by 2035.

Leadership at the United Nations also welcomed the agreement between the two countries.

"I welcome today's agreement between China and the USA to work together to take more ambitious #ClimateAction in this decade," wrote UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Twitter. "Tackling the climate crisis requires international collaboration and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction."


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