The US and China have agreed to triple renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 to displace fossil fuels in electricity generation and effectuate “meaningful absolute power sector emission reduction,” they said in a joint statement.

The Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis was released Tuesday by the US State Department in anticipation of today’s summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a secluded estate along Northern California’s coastal range near San Francisco.

While the document made no specific mention of numbers for solar, wind, or other renewables generation capacity, it said deployment will be sufficient “so as to accelerate the substitution for coal, oil and gas generation.”

Non-hydro renewables, solar, and wind provided about 16.2% of US electricity in 2022. With inclusion of large hydro and nuclear, about 40% of electricity was emissions-free.

Renewable energy lobbyist American Clean Power Association reported as of September this year, the US had 243.4GW of grid-scale clean power capacity installed led by onshore wind (146.7GW), PV (83.2GW), and storage (13.5GW).

China has 400GW of wind and 521GW of solar capacity as of 30 October, according to the State Council information office. Consultancy Rystad Energy sees it on track towards exceeding 1TW of clean energy by 2026, five years ahead of target.

The US and China are the world's first and second largest economies and biggest polluters, together generating some 38% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Both countries “recognise that the climate crisis has increasingly affected countries around the world,” the statement said.

It reiterated their commitment 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.”

The joint statement comes two weeks before global leaders from some 200 nations are set to meet in Dubai for the COP28 meeting on climate change.

COP28 will include a “stock-taking” assessment of the world’s progress on the energy transition and emissions reductions in concert with the landmark 2018 Paris Accord on climate change.

President Joe Biden's administration has pledged the US will reduce GHG emissions by 50-52% from 2005 levels by 2030. At the start of this year, the country had advanced one-third toward meeting that target.

The statement included an agreement to “deepen policy exchanges on energy-saving and carbon-reducing solutions in key areas including industry, buildings, transportation, and equipment.

The two countries also “aim to advance at least 5 large-scale cooperative CCUS (carbon capture, utilisation and storage) projects each by 2030, including from industrial and energy sources.”

Alden Meyer, senior associate of E3G, a think tank on the climate change economics, said the statement sent “positive signals with a commitment that the energy transition outcome should be in the global stocktake decision text (at COP28) and not just pledges and political declaration.”

“It was a breakthrough for the US that China has now agreed that the next round of NDCs (nationally determined contributions) should be economy-wide and cover all greenhouse gases, China’s current commitment up to 2060 was just for carbon dioxide so that’s a big move,” Meyer said.

“But there was nothing on near-term fossil fuel phase out commitments, other than some statements about coal from both,” he added.

The statement also affirmed capacity building and policy dialogue “to develop their respective methane reduction actions/targets for inclusion in their 2035 NDCs and support each country’s methane reduction/control progress.”

China has until now resisted efforts to reduce methane emissions, despite it being 80 times more potent as a GHG than carbon dioxide, a move Meyer called “quite significant”.