On 10 November 2021, the US and China issued a Joint Statement at COP26 setting out the various climate actions they plan to cooperate on.

The joint statement is light on concrete actions and big on cooperation but it does emphasise two important points: (1) both countries have committed to take “enhanced climate action”; and (2) that climate action needs to happen this decade/in the 2020s. This is a significant play by both countries and should (hopefully) go some way to assuage concerns that China’s net zero target is 2060 rather than 2050.

Natural areas of focus for future cooperation between the two countries include green design of products, CCUS and direct air capture.

On methane emissions – although China has not signed up to the US/EU Global Methane Pledge, it has committed in the joint statement to develop a comprehensive and ambitious national action plan on methane. The aim is to achieve significant methane emissions reductions in the 2020s. The US and China will convene a meeting in the first half of 2022 to discuss the detail.

China has also said in the joint statement that it will phase down coal consumption during the 15th Five Year Plan (which covers the period 2026 to 2030) and “make best efforts to accelerate this work”. Neither China nor the US signed up to the pledge made last week at COP26 by several countries to phase out coal power by the 2040s. So China’s commitment to phasing down its own coal consumption in this joint statement, as well as the US’ pre-COP commitment to reach 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035, are their way of showing the world what they are willing to do and is in line with the wording agreed in the final COP26 agreement. China had already announced before COP that it will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad (see here).

On deforestation – both countries have said they are committed to eliminating global illegal deforestation and welcome the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use last week and their contribution will be mainly by “effectively enforcing” their respective laws on banning illegal imports.

China and US have also committed to publishing updated climate plans (known as NDCs) in 2025 setting out what they plan to do by 2035.

China and the US will set up a “Working Group on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s” to progress the various stands of work covered in the joint statement.

For more information on COP26 in general, see the Linklaters COP26 microsite.