USA plans ‘accelerated’ climate change cooperation with China

By Ed King

China and the USA have announced plans to cooperate in the research and development of low carbon technologies, claiming there are “significant and mutual benefits” in intensified actions.

In a statement released at the end of Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Beijing at the weekend, the countries say the global response to climate change is “inadequate” and requires a “more focused and urgent initiative”.

“Both sides recognize that, given the latest scientific understanding of accelerating climate change and the urgent need to intensify global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, forceful, nationally appropriate action by the United States and China – including large-scale cooperative action – is more critical than ever,” the statement reads.

“Such action is crucial both to contain climate change and to set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s tour of Asia has taken in South Korea, China and Japan (Pic: State Department)

The two countries are jointly responsible for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions, and are blamed by many observers for blocking progress at the UN-sponsored climate negotiations.

But in a move welcomed by climate campaigners in the States, Kerry revealed a Climate Change Working Group would be set up ahead of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue summit in July, an annual high level forum involving the Presidents of both countries.

“By agreeing to raise the issue of climate change and energy policy to the ministerial level and put it into the Strategic and Economic Dialogue which we will be sharing in July, we have put on an accelerated basis, at a higher level, our joint efforts with respect to energy and climate,” Kerry said.

“And I think that globally, that will be a very significant step and significant message.”

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, an influential member of the country’s ruling executive, confirmed Beijing’s commitment to investing in clean technology.

“Both China and the United States are now confronted with a complex and volatile international situation, and both have important development tasks at home. It is thus all the more necessary for our two sides to enhance dialogue, increase trust, expand cooperation, manage differences, and ensure that our bilateral relations will stay on the track of strong and stable growth.”

Led by Todd Stern and Xie Zhenhua, the lead climate negotiators of the USA and China, the Working Group’s stated aims are to “foster green and low-carbon economic growth” and explore “new areas for concrete, cooperative action”.

News that the countries plan to work together on green technology is especially interesting given the series of trade spats involving both parties over the alleged ‘dumping’ of Chinese solar panels in US markets. This led to the US imposing tariffs on solar cell and solar panel imports from China, worth US$3.1bn in 2011.

This announcement is the latest in the series of efforts by the Obama Administration to demonstrate it is committed to addressing the climate challenge.

Last week the State Department hosted a climate finance donors meeting involving richer nations that are expected to provide contributions to the Green Climate Fund.

Veteran US climate observer Alden Meyer told RTCC the statement was “encouraging” but stressed it was vital both sides maintained the momentum ahead of July’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

“This is potentially a very significant development, coming as it does from the world’s two biggest economies and greenhouse gas emitters,” he said.

“By pledging to “set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world,” the joint statement certainly raises expectations that both the US and China will move more forcefully to confront the threat of climate change.”

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