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


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.


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.

Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.