For those invested in the fight against climate change, the timing of this week’s meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jingping is fortuitous.

The rare face-to-face meeting, scheduled for Wednesday in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, comes as signs appear to be growing of a renewed desire between the two economic giants to work together to rein in fossil fuel use: a significant change and a possible issue on which countries can agree.

On Thursday, John Kerry, Biden’s special climate envoy, wrote in X that the nations held “comprehensive and constructive discussions” and “reached common ground on a number of issues.” His update comes less than a month before COP28, the United Nations conference at which countries are expected to agree to new commitments to fight climate change and its consequences.

This is a crucial signal to the world, much of which is following the climate guidelines of the United States and China.

“I think both presidents see the climate and clean energy space as perhaps one of the bright spots in the relationship,” said Alden Meyer, senior associate at E3G, a climate think tank that focuses on global politics. “Both in terms of what countries are doing domestically and how they can help overcome some of the obstacles to achieving successful outcomes in the climate negotiations process.”

For Kerry, it’s a reversal of a more bitter tone just six months ago when he said climate negotiations had run into problems amid rising geopolitical tensions. Since then, a 2021 agreement between the United States and China to combat climate change has been overshadowed by China’s growing fossil fuel production, in particular with charcoal.

But each country has shown signs of willingness to clean up its energy use. China recently announced its The long-awaited agreement on methane emissionsand the broad policies included in the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. climate law passed last year, help both nations align on decarbonizing sectors while reducing emissions.

Fan Dai, director of the California-China Climate Institute, a partnership between the University of California, Berkeley and Tsinghua University, said cooperation would be natural as both countries want to move away from fossil fuels and strengthen their economies, but it has implications for security to consider.

«I think that’s another issue that really requires the two countries to work together with each other and with the rest of the world,» he said.

The negotiations come as the climate community has warned that the world is approaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, the point at which the effects of human-caused global warming cannot be reversed. Both countries are experiencing the harsh effects of climate change in the form of floods and heat waves that would not be possible without climate change.

It is unclear what the agenda of the Biden-Xi meeting will be, although it will come shortly after Xi’s meeting with California Governor Gavin Newsom, who visited China last month to discuss climate cooperation. Meyer said Kerry’s talks and the presidents’ meeting bode well for the upcoming U.N. conference.

“Assuming all goes well, I think the hope is that they can put together an updated joint statement by the time COP28 arrives in Dubai in about three weeks,” he said.

COP28 will serve as a crucial benchmark for global climate mitigation efforts. The EU has already said that it will a substantial financial contribution to a fund aimed at addressing the destruction caused by climate change, and Reuters reported that more than 60 countries have expressed support for an agreement to triple renewable energy this decade.

Dai noted that the optics of climate cooperation could also give the issue a boost as rivals clash in other areas.

“On the climate front, I believe that cooperating with the United States does not mean that President Xi has to kneel before the United States and Biden. It’s more about taking a long-term view and how a leader should think,” he said. “I think the same applies to working with China on climate, which doesn’t mean Biden is weakening his position on China. «Actually I think the opposite, which means it’s a very wise foreign policy move.»