November 11, 2021|Updated November 11, 2021 at 2:01 p.m. EST
GLASGOW, Scotland — Success or failure of the COP26 is in the hands of world leaders and their negotiating teams. They are trying to hammer out a deal to avert catastrophic climate change, as the two-week global summit nears its end. Along with COP President Alok Sharma, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres delivered remarks to encourage governments to move quicker and with greater ambition.
Here’s what to know
The summit is due to end on Friday, and Sharma has said he wants to stick to that. But these summits often continue past their deadlines. Sharma acknowledged that contentious differences remain, saying he was “under no illusion that any party in this room is wholly satisfied with where the texts currently stand.”
Whether the deal keeps mention of coal and fossil fuels is among the remaining fights.
Costa Rica and Denmark are rallying countries to join their Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, dedicated to the phaseout of oil and gas production.
The general theme of the day is cities and built environments.
Little Amal doesn’t have a lot in common with most refugees. For one thing, she’s been warmly welcomed in 65 cities, towns and villages over the course of her nearly 5,000-mile journey from the Syria-Turkey border to Britain. She’s met Pope Francis and held hands with Jude Law. She also isn’t little, standing nearly 12 feet tall.
Amal is, in fact, a puppet — a production of Good Chance Theatre and created by the Handspring Puppet Company, best known for their work on the play “War Horse.” Her journey across Europe from July to November, billed by creators as “The Walk,” was meant to represent the plight of young refugees fleeing war. In Glasgow, her creators say she represents children displaced by the climate crises.
“Amal represents one of the many, many hundreds of thousands of climate refugees in the world today — and of course, the hundreds of thousands and millions more to come,” explained Tracey Seaward, a producer on the project.
“Although Little Amal has no voice — she is a puppet — she seems to have been able to amplify the voices of those that are really underrepresented,” Seaward said.
Little Amal’s long walk continued through the streets of Glasgow, accompanied by musicians playing a mournful tune, a police escort and about a hundred onlookers. People peered out of shops and down from their apartments at the otherworldly scene.
Rosie Cunningham brought her daughter Bea, who said she’s “nearly 3,” to walk with Amal after learning about her on Instagram. “There are so many journeys that people are having to make against their will and we just really wanted to meet her,” Cunningham said.
She decided to bring Bea along “because she’s going to be the person, along with the rest of the youth, who might have to take on the mantle of sorting out the climate crisis. So she’s going to be a person who lives with harder things than we’ve had to live with. She’s the future, just like Amal.’
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Panama amplifies youth outrage, calls 1.5-degree goal ‘a moral obligation’
A Panama delegate, speaking Thursday for a youth movement that feels excluded from COP26 negotiations, scolded national and corporate leaders for setting the Earth on a trajectory for “a fatal 2.4 degrees warming” — a forecast presented this week by United Nations researchers.
“We look to you as global leaders, yet your actions are failing us,” said Mari Helena Castillo Mariscal, 25, the deputy lead negotiator of Panama, at a plenary event defined by congratulations and politesse, and featuring U.N. officials, the mayor of London and the first minister of Scotland.
“We pressured you into agreement in Paris, yet we are excluded from full engagement for its implementation,” Mariscal said, adding: “Paris promised 1.5” degrees, “but lack of leadership is giving us 2.4 degrees of deadly warming. 1.5 is not a choice. It is a necessity, a moral obligation, a lifeline.”
Panama claims to have COP26’s youngest delegation of negotiators, with an average age of 29. A coalition of young activists from multiple nations collaborated on Mariscal’s remarks over the past few days; on Thursday, the text was publicized on social media and received the signatures of more than 11,000 young people from 129 nations, according to organizers.
Shortly before Panama’s remarks, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said that he was inspired by “the moral voice of young people keeping our feet to the fire.”
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Negotiators from Tuvalu, Ghana say U.S. not ambitious enough at COP26 climate talks
GLASGOW, Scotland — The United States is not being ambitious enough to turn back global warming as the U.N. climate talks enter their frantic final days, two negotiators from climate vulnerable countries said Thursday as they asked Washington to commit more money to the countries that will suffer the most in a warming world.
Representatives of Tuvalu and Ghana appeared alongside leaders from U.S. climate organizations, youth activists and civil society representatives from other developing countries to ask for more commitments from the United States, especially on funding to address harm already inflicted by global warming, known in negotiators’ lingo as “loss and damage.”
“As of today, we don’t even have an agenda item so far as loss and damage is concerned,” said Emmanuel Tachie-Obeng, the deputy director of the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency and a negotiator for his country. “But look at what’s happening, the disasters that are coming with climate change. All our farms are being wiped away. All our livelihoods are being wiped away. All our schools are being wiped away. Who is paying these damages?”
The finance minister of Tuvalu — whose low-lying nation atoll and reef islands in the Pacific is rapidly shrinking because of rising seas — said that the United States was a global leader that should set an example.
“They are not advocating, and they are not supporting the 1.5-degree target, and that’s why we are gravely concerned and disappointed,” said Tuvaluan Finance Minister Seve Paeniu, referring to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius above preindustrial levels.
Representatives of environmental organizations said the United States needed to commit more resources toward efforts being discussed in Glasgow.
“The only way we can deal with this problem is to go on a wartime footing as if we were being invaded by an alien force … and get back to the path we need to be on,” said Alden Meyer, a senior associate at E3G, a think tank focused on climate change.
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Vanessa Nakate: ‘I’m here to beg you to prove us wrong’
GLASGOW, Scotland — On the penultimate day of the summit, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate had a powerful message for delegates from around the world as they scrambled to reach an agreement in the dwindling hours of a summit that seeks to avert catastrophic climate change.
“I’m here to beg you to prove us wrong,” said the 24-year-old activist.
And then she hit that note again.
Speaking at a high-profile event, packed with delegates from around the world, she said: “God help us all if you fail to prove us wrong. God help us.”
Nakate received multiple rounds of applause as she told the eco-summit, “Only immediate and drastic action will pull us back from the abyss.”
She explained why she was skeptical about the flurry of pledges that have been made by world leaders so far.
“There have been 25 COPs before this one, and every time leaders come to these climate negotiations with an array of new pledges, commitments and promises,” she said.
“And as it comes and goes, emissions continue to rise. This year will be no different. CO2 emissions are forecast to jump in 2021 by the second-biggest annual rise in history. So I hope you can understand why many of the activists who are here in Glasgow, and millions of activists who could not be here, do not see the success that is being applauded.”
At times, the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow has felt like a tale of two cities: optimism and big announcements from politicians inside COP26, and anger and frustration by young climate activists outside on the streets.
But the pressure from young people — some of whom, like Nakate, have addressed delegates directly — has not gone unnoticed.
“I hope you can tell by the length and the warmth of the applause that people agree with you,” said Nigel Topping, the United Nations’ high-level climate action champion. “I hope that every mayor, every governor, every CEO of a business, every banker every investor, hears that call.”
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When will there be a climate deal? Offers of tequila and vodka ride on the outcome.
GLASGOW, Scotland — Forget the substance of global warming. As two weeks of crucial climate talks wind down in Glasgow, a betting game was heating up on Thursday about what time the powers and potentates will actually close on a deal.
The sooner the better, some negotiators at COP26 say — and Russia and Mexico are willing to back up the urgency with promises of alcohol if talks end as scheduled on Friday. Talks in Madrid in 2019 went over by two days. In Katowice, Poland, they dragged from a Friday into a Saturday.
The British official in charge of coordinating the talks, Alok Sharma, has said he wants to stick to the Friday deadline. But he acknowledged Thursday that there were contentious differences that still must be resolved. Sharma said he was “under no illusion that any party in this room is wholly satisfied with where the texts currently stand.”
Sharma’s boss, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said that he was willing to zoom past the deadline — a familiar refrain from years of Brexit talks in Brussels, which often ran all night long.
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t go into extra time, if we have to,” he said Wednesday, before zipping back to London, a sign he might not be ready to shepherd the deal as it reaches its final stages.
As often happens, the closer the deadline, the sharper the discussions. Coal-producing nations are haggling over what it would take for them to allow anti-fossil fuel language to remain in the final agreement. Developing nations are demanding more financial support.
Wednesday night, as negotiators took turns updating participants about their countries’ stances on the current state of the talks, the Russian delegation offered vodka and the Mexican delegation offered tequila if they can end on Friday.
“They were offering drinks,” said Kristi Klaas, the deputy secretary general of the Estonian Environment Ministry and one of the negotiators. She said she thought it was a good sign.
“That’s an indication there is willingness to reach a deal.”
That exhortation from British COP26 president Alok Sharma could easily apply to the collective global effort to avert catastrophic climate change. But he was actually talking about the single day left in the official schedule for the milestone conference, at which Britain is expected to shepherd an agreement to put the planet on a safe path.
“Everyone knows what is at stake for the future,” Sharma said. “We have no choice but to rise to that challenge and strain every sinew to achieve a timely outcome.”
Sharma held a news conference Thursday afternoon as closed-door fights over the timeline for curbing carbon emissions and the provision of aid for vulnerable nations spilled into public view.
Just a few hours earlier, a spokesman for a coalition of developing countries that includes some of the world’s biggest emitters said his group had asked for the entire section on mitigation to be removed from the agreement.
Bolivian negotiator Diego Pacheco Balanza accused wealthy nations of trying to shift responsibility for climate change onto the developing world. Sharma’s proposal that countries adopt an accelerated emissions-cutting schedule would “rewrite the Paris agreement” and put the world on a “pathway to carbon colonialism,” Balanza told reporters Thursday.
“That I think gives you a sense there is not yet at this conference a consensus that we do need to collectively ramp up our ambition,” said lead British negotiator Archie Young.
Tension is rising in the “Blue Zone,” where suited diplomats hustle between meeting rooms as activists and journalists scramble to find out where negotiations are headed. Nations are far from agreement on a host of issues. Negotiations are extending further and further into the night, with delegates fueled by mediocre sandwiches and sugary tea.
Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, a Gabonese official and chair of the African group of negotiators, said some of his fellow African officials cannot afford to change their flights if the talks do not end on schedule.
But he said the agenda for this conference is busier than any of the half-dozen COPs he has attended.
Asked how he was holding up, Gahouma-Bekale heaved a sigh. “I’m still alive,” he replied.
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Spin these globes to see the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming
Among the crowd of facts and figures that negotiators are grappling with at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, two numbers stand out: 1.5 and 2.
Those numbers represent the world’s broad goals for combating global warming: to limit warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, and, if possible, not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.6 F).
What’s the difference between the two temperature thresholds? Simulations of how temperatures could change around the globe, given average warming of 1.5C or 2C, paint a vivid picture. Spin the globes to explore the data.
These simulations come from the latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Whether at 1.5C or 2C, land areas would probably warm more than oceans, and the poles would warm more than the tropics.
Limiting warming to 1.5C would be much more difficult, but a 2C world would be less hospitable for human life. A study released Tuesday by the U.K. Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, found that 1 billion people could face heat stress, a potentially fatal combination of heat and humidity, if temperatures rose by 2C.
The IPCC report also simulated changes in average precipitation if the planet warms by 1.5C or 2C.
“Precipitation is projected to increase over high latitudes, the equatorial Pacific and parts of the monsoon regions, but decrease over parts of the subtropics and in limited areas of the tropics,” the report said.
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U.N. secretary general says COP26 promises ‘ring hollow’ without more changes on fossil fuels
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Thursday plans to ask world leaders to make faster progress on securing a global agreement to prevent catastrophic climate change.
"Governments need to pick up the pace and show the necessary ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance in a balanced way," Guterres plans to say at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by The Washington Post.
"We cannot settle for the lowest common denominator. We know what must be done," the Portuguese diplomat will say.
As COP26 enters its hectic final days, negotiators released a preliminary draft agreement Wednesday that called for an end to coal use and fossil fuel subsidies, as well as greater funding from wealthy nations to help poor nations cope with irreversible climate impacts.
But the seven-page document was short on specific details and deadlines. And while climate activists hailed the first-ever reference to phasing out fossil fuels in a U.N. climate accord, they stressed that more needs to be done to stave off disastrous warming.
Guterres will commend the United States and China for forging an agreement to cut emissions faster over the next decade, calling it an “important step in the right direction,” while highlighting that nations continue to construct new coal-fired power plants.
"Promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies, as measured by the [International Monetary Fund]," he will say. "Or when countries are still building coal plants. Or when carbon is still without a price – distorting markets and investors decisions."
Guterres will add that he has been "inspired" by the "moral voice of young people keeping our feet to the fire," a reference to the tens of thousands of youth climate activists who marched in the streets of Glasgow over the weekend.
COP26 President Alok Sharma will speak at the press conference before Guterres. The summit is due to end on Friday, and Sharma has said he wants to stick to that. But these summits often continue past their deadlines.
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Spokesman for developing countries: Only rich nations should be forced to accelerate carbon cuts
With the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius slipping out of reach, organizers of the COP26 climate summit have proposed that countries boost their emissions-cutting pledges on an accelerated schedule — with some starting as soon as next year.
But Bolivian negotiator Diego Pacheco Balanza, spokesman for coalition of developing countries that includes China and India, indicated that his group would oppose the provision. It’s not fair to force developing countries as well as rich nations to update their targets every year, he argued — especially when rich countries are responsible for the bulk of historical emissions.
U.K. COP president Alok Sharma’s proposal, which was unveiled in a draft agreement released Wednesday, would “rewrite the Paris agreement” and put the world on a “pathway to carbon colonialism,” Balanza told reporters Thursday.
He said that his coalition, known as the Like Minded Developing Countries, had asked Sharma to remove from the text the entire section on mitigation, or cutting emissions.
“If parties really want to increase ambition, that should be the role of developed countries,” Balanza said. “They have the financial conditions, they have the technological capabilities to address this issue.”
When asked about this request, lead European Union negotiator Frans Timmermans said, “I have trouble following the logic of that position.”
Timmermans acknowledged that wealthy countries must provide more financial aid to the world’s most vulnerable.
“But then to say, lets remove the mitigation?” he said. “There is no amount of money on this planet. There is no brilliant technical solution for adaptation to get to where we need to be.”
He pointed to the weather disasters, droughts and heat waves that have already wreaked havoc in much of the world, which is currently about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than in the preindustrial era.
“Just imagine if we shoot through 2, 2.5 degrees — there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “It is in the interest of the poorest people that we insist strongly on mitigation. It is of the essence.”
Under the rules of the Paris agreement, nations must boost their carbon-cutting targets, termed “nationally determined contributions” or NDCs, on a five-year cycle.
U.N. officials pushed for nations to make new and bolder commitments that would help the world avoid passing the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold. For most nations, that meant roughly halving emissions by 2030.
But many nations, developed and developing alike, have brought forward lackluster plans for the next decade. Some have not submitted new NDCs at all. If these targets are not updated before 2025, most scientists say the world will permanently lose its chance to meet the 1.5 degree goal.
According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Bolivia has not updated its NDC since 2016.
But Balanza said developing nations like his should not be held to the same standard as wealthier countries, which are responsible for the majority of carbon already in the atmosphere.
“History matters,” he said. “Developed countries have overused their domestic carbon space. That space is now for the developmental rights of the developing world and also for the protection of Mother Earth.”
Many representatives from low income countries have said that wealthy regions like the United States and European Union lost credibility after they failed to deliver on a decade-old promise to give $100 billion a year to help climate initiatives in the developing world. Just before COP26 began, rich nations said they would most likely not meet the $100 billion goal until 2023, three years behind schedule.
Sharma’s draft text calls for developed countries to double the amount of aid they direct toward adaptation initiatives. But it did not mention a clear financial mechanism for addressing irreversible harm caused by climate change. Nor did it offer details on how rich nations should make up for their climate finance shortfall or what support they would be expected to deliver beyond 2025.
“Climate change is not only about mitigation,” Balanza said. Developing countries are already facing “huge impacts of the climate crisis,” which they need help confronting.
In that effort, he continued, “finance is an obligation. Finance is not charity of the developed countries to developing world.”
On the morning of Remembrance Day in Glasgow, seven “dead bodies” lay in white shrouds at the entrance gates to COP26.
The bodies — very much alive, with sensible hiking boots sticking out from beneath their sheets — were labeled POLLUTION, DROUGHT, FAMINE, SUICIDE, SKIN CANCER, WAR and FLOOD. Another sign stuck out from under a shroud: “I remember seeing hedgehogs in the wild.”
This is a rather quiet protest by the normally boisterous Extinction Rebellion UK, with about a dozen, mostly silver-haired protesters taking turns to tuck themselves in beneath their sheets to draw attention to climate change-related deaths.
Val King, 61, came to represent Christian Climate Action, the Christian element of Extinction Rebellion. “The meaning of this is to represent real people, who are already dying, who have died already and are dying now, and will die in the future as a result of the climate emergency,” she said.
Just behind her, harried delegates showed their daily negative coronavirus test results to guards and squeezed themselves through too-small turnstiles on their way into the negotiations.
“There are people in this building who are literally discussing the future of humanity,” King said. “It feels like a science fiction film, but it’s true. And if they don’t do the right thing, then not just this generation but the ones to follow will suffer tremendously.”
Welsh farmer Jim Bowen, 54, said he was angry at the presence of fossil fuel lobbyists inside the climate convention. “I can’t see how these people can sleep at night,” he said. “How they can go home to their kids, and their kids say, ‘How was your day at work?’ — and they say, ‘Oh, it was great’ — when you know that they are forcing the world into a stage where their children will never be grown-ups, and never have children of their own.”
Another protester, 74-year-old Philip (who did not want to give a last name and stressed that he was not part of the Extinction Rebellion “die-in” but was rather “doing my own thing”), posed for a photo with a sign that summed up the sentiment: “HATE Children Support FOSSIL FUELS.”
“I fear the sarcasm is lost on some,” he admitted.
Costa Rica and Denmark launch initiative to phase out oil and gas
Eleven national and subnational governments at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Thursday launched an initiative to phase out oil and gas — although the world’s largest producers of fossil fuels were absent from the deal.
Led by Costa Rica and Denmark, the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance will seek to set an end date for oil and gas exploration and production consistent with the 2015 Paris climate accord.
The “core members” are Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Greenland, Ireland, the Canadian province of Quebec, Sweden, Wales and Portugal. The “associate members” are the U.S. state of California and New Zealand, which have not entirely banned onshore oil and gas drilling. Italy said it would be a “friend” of the alliance, as detailed on the initiative’s website.
However, the world’s four largest oil producers — the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Canada — did not join the alliance, raising questions about how much it can accomplish.
“The fossil era must come to an end. But just as the Stone Age did not end due to a lack of stone, the fossil era will not end because there’s no more oil in the ground,” Danish Climate Minister Dan Jorgensen said at a news conference Thursday morning.
Jorgensen said he was “in dialogue with many other countries that are not here today,” including Scotland. “I hope that we will also be able to name other countries within the next few days,” he said.
Despite co-hosting COP26 with Italy, Britain declined to join the alliance. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the decision at a news conference Wednesday, saying Britain already has “set an absolutely blistering pace for moving beyond hydrocarbons,” including by seeking to ban sales of gas-powered vehicles starting in 2030.
COP26 pledges on methane, deforestation and more close 2030 ‘emissions gap’ by 9 percent
High-profile pledges to slow deforestation, phase out coal, ramp up the use of electric vehicles and curb emissions of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — would get the world just a little bit closer to its target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to research released Thursday.
A report from Climate Action Tracker found that “sectoral pledges” made by political and business leaders during the first 10 days of the Glasgow climate summit would reduce humanity’s annual emissions by 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030 — closing the “emissions gap” needed to keep humanity on track for its most ambitious climate goal by just 9 percent.
Research published by United Nations researchers earlier this week suggests the world is on track to warm 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) even if countries follow through with the short-term emissions-cutting commitments made in the run-up to COP26. That’s a full degree above the target that scientists, activists and vulnerable nations increasingly say humanity cannot afford to miss.
A separate report published by Climate Action Tracker on Tuesday similarly found a “massive credibility gap" between countries’ commitments and their stated goals. It suggested that Earth will warm 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.3 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
The Climate Action Tracker researchers did not immediately calculate how the reductions from sectoral initiatives might alter that trajectory, but New Climate Institute researcher Niklas Höhne, who worked on the analysis, said it would likely reduce projected temperatures “just a very little bit.”
The analysis considers only countries that signed on to these pledges through Nov. 10. And it counts only emissions reductions that would go beyond countries’ official carbon-cutting commitments submitted to the United Nations.
It is not surprising that the effect of the pledges is relatively small, as most “sectoral pledges" were signed by a minority of countries, rather than the full cohort of nearly 200 nations in the Paris agreement. The point of these pledges is to set standards and create coalitions that will eventually welcome more nations into the fold, Höhne said.
“The pressure of being put on the spot will help to grow the membership of the initiatives and enhance the effect beyond national climate targets in the long run,” he said in a statement.
COP26 president on climate talks: ‘We are not there yet’
COP26 President Alok Sharma said Thursday that barely a day before the much-watched summit is scheduled to close in Glasgow, negotiators continue to wrangle over a range of thorny issues as they try to shape an agreement that will help the world slow climate change.
“I want to be clear: We are not there yet,” he said. “There is still a lot more work to be done.”
While Sharma said delegates hashing out the numerous proposals had made significant progress over the past day, he acknowledged the contentious differences that remain, saying he was “under no illusion that any party in this room is wholly satisfied with where the texts currently stand.”
Early drafts of a proposed agreement included provisions urging countries to accelerate the phase out of fossil fuels and to boost funding for vulnerable nations dealing with climate-related catastrophes. Negotiators also have been hashing out the rules for global carbon trading markets, as well as ways to ensure that the greenhouse gas data and climate plans that nations put forward are transparent and credible.
Many of those topics remained unresolved on Thursday on the banks of the River Clyde, putting the planned Friday conclusion of the summit in doubt. Numerous previous U.N. climate talks have run long under similar circumstances. Two years ago in Madrid, delegates pushed more than 40 hours past their planned deadline — making those the longest in the history of the talks.
Sharma was clear he wanted a less tumultuous ending to COP26.
“The world is watching us, and they are willing us to work together and reach consensus,” he said. “And we know that we cannot afford to fail them.”
U.S., China issue joint pledge to slow climate change
The United States and China jolted the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow with a surprise announcement Wednesday, pledging the two countries would work together to slow global warming during this decade and ensure that the Glasgow talks result in meaningful progress.
The world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters said they would take “enhanced climate actions” tomeet the central goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord — limiting warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) beyond preindustrial levels, and if possible, not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. Still, the declaration was short on firm deadlines or specific commitments, and parts of it restated policies both nations had outlined in a statement in April.
To try to keep those temperature limits “within reach,” Chinese and American leaders agreed to jointly “raise ambition in the 2020s”and said they would boost clean energy, combat deforestation and curb emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.