Joining hands to build a greener world for all
The China-US Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s issued at the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, could inject new vitality into the global fight against climate change and help ensure the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
First, the joint declaration highlights the importance of cooperation and solidarity in the fight against climate change. As a common global challenge, the climate crisis can be effectively addressed only through concerted global efforts, which is to say multilateralism is key to tackling global challenges such as climate change.
The Paris Agreement has laid a strong legal foundation for global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. But the participation of all countries in the global climate fight, despite being a prerequisite, is not enough to overcome the climate challenge. For the gap between the goals set by the Paris Agreement and the global efforts being made to meet those goals is so huge that strengthened climate actions are desperately needed to narrow, if not altogether close, that gap before it is too late.
From the climate governance point of view, to effectively implement the Paris Agreement, well-coordinated efforts need to be made at various levels－at the national level through individual country's Nationally Determined Contributions under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; at the bilateral level such as the China-US joint climate actions; and at the multilateral level through global accords such as the Paris Agreement.
As stated in the Sino-US joint declaration, the two countries have not only set their individual carbon neutrality targets, but also agreed to establish a working group to accelerate joint climate actions in the 2020s and boost the multilateral process. Which means the two sides will make efforts at the national, bilateral as well as multilateral levels to combat climate change.
Second, the declaration shows that, despite their vast differences and disputes on many issues, China and the US can still cooperate and jointly lead efforts to overcome global challenges such as climate change. That the two countries shelved their differences and disputes to join hands to tackle one of the most severe challenges facing humankind is perhaps one of the greatest achievements of the Glasgow conference, which in turn could enhance political mutual trust between the North and the South.
In fact, the two sides forged a similar partnership a year before the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, paving the way for the signing of the Paris Agreement. But since the global climate fight suffered a big blow after previous US president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, the world was pleasantly surprised when the two sides made the joint declaration in Glasgow. Although the declaration may not be a game-changer, it is an important step toward building a shared green future.
Third, since China and the US are the world's two largest greenhouse gas emitters, their efforts to build a greener future are vital to the success of any global climate accord. And maybe their joint vows will encourage other countries to take more serious measures to address the climate challenge.
By committing themselves to ambitious climate actions, the two countries have also committed to making greater efforts to transition to a low-carbon development path. However, this transition will not be easy because, for example, the estimated investment required for China to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 could be as high as 100 trillion yuan ($15.65 trillion) over the next 30 years.
And fourth, the joint declaration underscores the necessity of dealing with the global climate crisis holistically－by striking the right balance between adapting to and mitigating climate change, and financing. So far, the majority of the global efforts have focused on mitigation, without paying much attention to adaptation.
True, it is extremely important to reduce emissions, but we also need to be realistic about the possible future scenarios and take adequate adaptation measures to deal with the negative impacts of climate change. Thankfully, the joint declaration recognizes the significance of adaptation and calls for providing developing countries financial and capacity-building support so they can better adapt to climate change.
The declaration also urges the developed countries to fulfill their promise of mobilizing $100 billion per year from 2020 to 2025 to support low-carbon growth and climate resilience in developing countries, building on the commitment from the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. In other words, the joint declaration covers mitigation, adaptation as well as finance.
Since the next decade will be crucial for the world in terms of climate actions, the joint declaration comes at the right time. If we fail to take comprehensive climate actions within the next decade, we may likely lose the battle and the later generations will have to pay a very heavy price for our failure.
For many, the joint declaration may have raised hopes, once again, of seeing a better and greener world, but humungous efforts will be needed to turn the declaration into real action.
Yet it is important to combat climate change to ensure a better future for the later generations, because humankind as a whole has reached a crossroad and we can hope to see a better future only if we take the low-carbon, green path.
The author is an associate research fellow at the Institute of International Law, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.