The United States and China have agreed to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030, aiming to replace fossil fuels in electricity generation and achieve substantial reductions in power sector emissions, according to a joint statement. The Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis, released by the US State Department, precedes a summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. While the document doesn’t specify capacity targets for solar, wind, or other renewables, it emphasises the need for deployment sufficient to accelerate the transition away from coal, oil, and gas.
In 2022, non-hydro renewables, solar and wind accounted for about 16.2% of US electricity, with a total of 40% being emissions-free when including large hydro and nuclear. The American Clean Power Association reported that the US had 243.4GW of grid-scale clean power capacity installed as of September 2023, led by onshore wind (146.7GW), PV (83.2GW) and storage (13.5GW).
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China, with 400GW of wind and 521GW of solar capacity as of the end of October 2023, is projected by Rystad Energy to surpass 1TW of clean energy by 2026, five years ahead of its target. As the world’s first and second-largest economies and major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, the US and China acknowledge the global impact of the climate crisis in their joint statement. They reiterate their commitment to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius and strive for a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The agreement, occurring two weeks before the COP28 meeting on climate change in Dubai, includes a commitment by the Biden administration to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% from 2005 levels by 2030. The statement also outlines plans for policy exchanges on energy-saving and carbon-reducing solutions across various sectors, as well as a goal to advance at least five large-scale cooperative carbon capture, utilisation and storage projects by 2030.
Alden Meyer, a senior associate of E3G, characterised the statement as positive, particularly noting China’s agreement to include all greenhouse gases in its nationally determined contributions up to 2060, a departure from its previous commitment limited to carbon dioxide. However, the statement lacks explicit commitments for the near-term phase-out of fossil fuels. Notably, the agreement also addresses methane reduction actions and targets for inclusion in the 2035 nationally determined contributions of both countries, marking a significant move for China, which has resisted previous efforts to reduce methane emissions despite its higher potency as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide.