It took more than 30 meetings over the course of a year to iron out one thing that the US and China can still agree about: fighting climate change.
John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, the respective US and Chinese climate envoys referenced those meetings as they reached a climate detente in the final days of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, despite the conflict in almost every other arena.
Military tensions remain high, for example, with Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week warning against a return to the era of cold war after China conducted hypersonic weapons tests in the summer and escalated its activities around Taiwan against US warnings.
“The US and China have no shortage of differences,” admitted Kerry at a press conference at COP26 on Wednesday. “But on climate, co-operation is the only way to get this job done.”
The demonstration of co-operation on climate by Xie and Kerry, as the two envoys gave sequential press conferences on Wednesday night, sent a jolt through the conference venue, where officials were otherwise bogged down in tortuous details at the tail-end of the two-week summit.
For many, it recalled the moment when Xi and then US president Barack
Obama made a joint statement in 2015, ahead of the Paris climate accord. Other countries fell into step after that move by the world’s two biggest emitters, to produce the Paris agreement on global warming.
But there were also key differences with the Xi-Obama statement in 2015. This time, the joint declaration did not include any major commitments.