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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

APEC 2023 and the Sunnylands statement for US-China cooperation to address the Climate Crisis in leadup to COP28

APEC 2023 San Fransisco

Last week on the 16-17 November Pacific Nation leaders met under the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum and and issued the 2023 APEC Leaders’ Golden Gate Declaration. President Biden (USA), President Xi (China), Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (Australia) were all there.

Of greater importance has been the ongoing dialogue between US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and China Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua who met in early November in California, following by bilateral discussion by Presidents Biden and Xi before APEC. 

Dialogue and actions by USA and China are key for setting ambition at the United Nations Climate conference COP28 in Dubai.

China's emissions are likely to fall in 2024, according to analysis published at Carbon Brief.

APEC Statement on the Climate Crisis

The APEC Paragraphs 7-9 are particularly relevant to addressing climate action. While the messaging is ambitious, it includes weezle words or phasing that allow countries substantial wiggle room.. 

"Different domestic circumstances" - used by countries to plead exception, often to support or subsidise inefficient or damaging industries or sectors.

"Inefficient fossil fuel subsidies" - Countries decry that their fossil fuel subsidies are efficient. For Australia this means over $11 billion in tax subsidies alone to support damaging fossil fuel sector. Australian Federal Labor Government has not even conducted a review to assess the efficiency of current fossil fuel subsidies.

"abatement and removal technologies" refers to Carbon dioxide Removal through natural and novel means. Natural CDR is reafforestation, but carbon sequestration may not be permanent and the flux can vary due to bushfires. Novel CDR includes Direct Air Capture and storage, and Carbon Capture and Storage. Carbon Capture and Storage poses risks of permanence and present schemes such as Gorgon has failed to live up to the capacity promise. CCS is also used to justify new gas field developments, despite only a proportion of emissions ever likely to be captured and stored.

"transition towards low and zero emissions vehicles" ignores the large amount of transport emissions reduced through investment in public and active transport and urban planning and design for 20 minute towns.

"efforts to ensuring food security and nutrition" no mention of the importance of demand side measures of moving to a more plant based diet, which would consume less agricultural resources, provide health co-benefits as explained by the IPCC 6th assessment report. This action would increase food security and nutrition.

7. The world continues to confront profound challenges posed by the impacts of climate change. We recognize that more intensive efforts are needed for economies to accelerate their clean, sustainable, just, affordable, and inclusive energy transitions through various pathways, consistent with global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions / carbon neutrality by or around mid-century, while taking into account the latest scientific developments and different domestic circumstances. In doing so, we endeavor to unleash a new era of decent jobs, investment, economic growth, and ensure energy, security, resilience, and access in the region. We recall our commitment to rationalize and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, while recognizing the importance of providing those in need with essential energy services. To reach this goal, we will continue our efforts in an accelerated manner.

8. We will pursue and encourage efforts to triple renewable energy capacity globally through existing targets and policies as well as demonstrate similar ambition with respect to other zero and low emissions technologies including abatement and removal technologies in line with domestic circumstances by 2030. To spur the transition to and investment in low and zero emissions transportation in the region through various pathways, we will pursue efforts to accelerate the transition towards low and zero emissions vehicles; sustainable aviation fuels; and low and zero emission maritime shipping and port decarbonization.

9. We commit to fully implement the Food Security Roadmap Towards 2030 as a pathway to make our agri-food systems more resilient, productive, innovative, and sustainable, while recognizing there is “no-one-size-fits-all” approach to agricultural sustainability. We also reaffirm our commitment to work towards the sustainable resource management of agriculture, forestry and marine resources and fisheries, including combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and emphasize the relationship between open, undistorted agri-food systems, climate change, and food security and nutrition. We reaffirm the importance of agricultural productivity, international trade, and prevention and reduction of food loss and waste, in achieving food security, and will increase our efforts to ensuring food security and nutrition.


US-China dialogue on climate

Prior to APEC on 15 November 2023 the US-China dialogue on climate, side event was held between Presidents Xi and Biden: 

The WhiteHouse comments regarding this discussion on climate action:

"The two leaders underscored the importance of working together to accelerate efforts to tackle the climate crisis in this critical decade.  They welcomed recent positive discussions between their respective special envoys for climate, including on national actions to reduce emissions in the 2020s, on common approaches toward a successful COP 28, and on operationalizing the Working Group on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s to accelerate concrete climate actions. President Biden stated that the United States stands ready to work together with the PRC to address transnational challenges, such as health security and debt and climate finance in developing countries and emerging markets." (Whitehouse gov)

Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and China Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua met in Beijing from 16 to 19 July 2023 and at Sunnylands, California, from 4 to 7 November 2023 and released the following: Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis.

As the largest two global emitters the climate efforts of China and the USA are highly important for spurring action at UN Climate talks. This statement includes joint positions.

The statement:

  • reaffirms United States and China committment to the effective implementation of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, reflecting equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances, to achieve the Paris Agreement’s aim in accordance with its Article 2 to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C, including efforts to keep 1.5 degrees C within reach. 
  • Both countries stress the importance of COP 28 in responding meaningfully to the climate crisis during this critical decade and beyond.
  • United States and China decide to operationalize the Working Group on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s, to engage in dialogue and cooperation to accelerate concrete climate actions in the 2020s. The Working Group will focus on the areas of cooperation that have been identified in the Joint Statement and the Joint Declaration, including on energy transition, methane, circular economy and resource efficiency, low-carbon and sustainable provinces/states & cities, and deforestation, as well as any agreed topics.
  • Commitment to accelerate, inter alia, the following concrete actions, including practical and tangible collaborative programs and projects under the Working Group. 
  • Energy Transition - triple renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 and intend to sufficiently accelerate renewable energy deployment in their respective economies through 2030 from 2020 levels so as to accelerate the substitution for coal, oil and gas generation
  • Energy Transition - restart the U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Forum to deepen policy exchanges on energy-saving and carbon-reducing solutions in key areas including industry, buildings, transportation, and equipment. 
  • Energy Transition - recommence bilateral dialogues on energy policies and strategies, enhance pragmatic cooperation. 
  • Energy Transition - advance at least 5 large-scale cooperative CCUS projects each by 2030, including from industrial and energy sources. 
  • implement their respective national methane action plans and intend to elaborate further measures, as appropriate
  • cooperate on respective measures to manage nitrous oxide emissions.
  • work together under the Kigali Amendment (Montreal Protocol) to phase down HFCs and commit to ensure application of ambitious minimum efficiency standards for all cooling equipment manufactured.
  • importance of developing circular economy and resource efficiency in addressing the climate crisis
  • to end plastic pollution and will work together and with others to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including the marine environment.
  • The United States and China will support climate cooperation among states, provinces, and cities with regard to areas including, inter alia, the power, transportation, buildings, and waste sectors.
  • commit to advance efforts to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030, including by fully implementing through regulation and policy, and effectively enforcing, their respective laws on banning illegal imports.
  • intend to cooperate in promoting relevant policies and measures and the deployment of technologies to enhance synergy of controlling GHG emissions and air pollutants, including NOx, VOCs, and other tropospheric ozone precursors. 
  • 2035 NDCs -  both countries’ 2035 NDCs will be economy-wide, include all greenhouse gases, and reflect the reductions aligned with the Paris temperature goal of holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C. 

For COP28 both countries outlined a joint position.

United States and China, with the United Arab Emirates, invite countries to a Methane and Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases Summit at COP 28.

Both countries are committed to working with each other and with other Parties to adopt a consensus Global Stocktake decision

Both countries are committed to working with each other and with other Parties to adopt a consensus Global Stocktake decision. In the view of both countries, the decision: 

  • should reflect that there has been substantial positive progress toward achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement, including that the Agreement has catalyzed action by both Parties and non-Party stakeholders and that the world is considerably better off in terms of its temperature trajectory than it would have been in the absence of the Agreement; 
  • should take account of equity and be informed by the best available science, including the most recent IPCC reports; 
  • should be balanced across thematic areas, include both retrospective and responsive elements, and be consistent with the design of the Paris Agreement; 
  • should reflect that substantially more ambition and implementation on action and support will be needed to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals, recognizing different national circumstances; 
  • should send signals with respect to the energy transition (renewable energy, coal/oil/gas), carbon sinks including forests, non-CO2 gases including methane, and low-carbon technologies, etc.; 
  • recognizing the nationally determined nature of NDCs and recalling Article 4.4 of the Paris Agreement, should encourage economy-wide 2035 NDCs covering all greenhouse gases; 
  • should reflect the critical importance of adaptation and be accompanied by a robust decision that delivers an ambitious framework for the global goal on adaptation — one that accelerates adaptation, including developing targets/indicators to enhance adaptation effectiveness; delivering early warning systems for developing country Parties; and strengthening adaptation efforts in key areas (e.g. food, water, infrastructure, health, and ecosystems); 
  • should note the expectation of the developed countries that the $100b goal will be met in 2023, reaffirm the urging of developed country Parties to at least double their provision of adaptation finance; anticipate the adoption by COP 29 of the new collective quantified goal; and make finance flows consistent with the Paris Agreement goals; 
  • should welcome with appreciation the recommendations of the Transitional Committee with respect to establishing funding arrangements to address loss and damage, including the establishment of a fund; and 
  • should emphasize the important role of international cooperation, including that the global nature of the climate crisis calls for the widest possible cooperation and that such cooperation is a critical enabler for achieving ambitious mitigation action and climate-resilient development. 

The United States and China are committed to further their dialogues, efforts, and collaboration to support the UAE Presidency for the success of COP 28. 

Update: China emissions likely to fall in 2024

Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) covering air quality and energy trends in China. has done an important analysis of emissions trends at  Carbon Brief. She argues that  China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are set to fall in 2024 and could be facing structural decline, due to record growth in the installation of new low-carbon energy sources. 

There are a suite of reasons for this peaking of emissions and likely fall. One of the reasons is the ramping up of solar panel production. 

Output of solar panels was 310 GW in 2022; it will be 500 GW in 2023; and 1000 GW in 2025 – four times the total installation of new solar worldwide last year.

Battery capacity to address intermittency shows an even steeper curve  : 550 GWh in 2022; 800 GWh in 2023, and 3,000 in 2025. 

Read the full analysis

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard witing at the Telegraph (UK) published under syndication by SMH, points out that 

"China’s carbon emissions have either peaked already or will do this winter, seven years ahead of schedule. They may plateau for a year or two but will then go into exponential decline for mechanical and unstoppable reasons.

The country’s target of net-zero by 2060 is likely to be achieved a decade earlier than previously assumed, and perhaps earlier than in Europe."

Year-on-year change in China’s annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and cement, million tonnes. Emissions are estimated from National Bureau of Statistics data on production of different fuels and cement, China Customs data on imports and exports and WIND Information data on changes in inventories, applying IPCC default emissions factors and annual emissions factors per tonne of cement production until 2019. Monthly values are scaled to annual data on fuel consumption in annual Statistical Communiques and National Bureau of Statistics annual Yearbooks. Chart by Carbon Brief.

References:, Briefing Room, 17 November 2023, 2023 APEC Leaders’ Golden Gate Declaration, Briefing Room, 15 November 2023, Readout of President Joe Biden’s Meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China,

US Department of State,  Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis, 14 November 2023,

Carbon Brief, 13 November 2023, Analysis: China’s emissions set to fall in 2024 after record growth in clean energy

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard,  China’s green surge could be a watershed moment for the world, Telegraph (UK) published under syndication by SMH, 23 November 2023

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