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At the U.N. climate talks, China and the U.S. pledge to increase cooperation

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The U.S. and China announced this week they're going to work together to reduce carbon and methane gas emissions. The pact is a significant political commitment. But NPR's Emily Feng reports it may not pack as much of a punch environmentally just yet.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: U.S. special envoy John Kerry and China's climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, announced the pact simultaneously at the U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow - a strong signal that two countries which butt heads on everything from technology to Taiwan can work together on climate. Here's Kerry.

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JOHN KERRY: The United States and China have no shortage of differences, but on climate, cooperation is the only way to get this job done.

FENG: The pact is an achievement geopolitically, but Li Shuo, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace in China, says in terms of actual climate pledges, there's not much substance here.

LI SHUO: There is limited progress, as much progress as the bilateral relationship would allow. We cannot rely on this joint statement to solve the climate crisis.

FENG: For example, there's no new details on how the U.S. and China would prevent global temperatures from rising, but China says it will plan a timeline for reducing the greenhouse gas methane. Here's Joanna Lewis, a Georgetown University professor who studies China and climate issues.

JOANNA LEWIS: I think the biggest new thing in here is the focus on methane emissions, as China has yet to put forward any concrete targets on non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

FENG: The pact also sets up a new working group for U.S. and Chinese climate officials to regularly meet and talk climate.

LEWIS: Which might just sound like an agreement to hold more meetings. But since U.S.-China engagement is so scarce right now, I think this again signals that climate is one area where the United States can constructively engage with China.

FENG: Engagement, which perhaps could result in more concrete climate commitments. Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.