John Kerry stresses need for US-China climate cooperation

Secretary of state emphasises the importance of joint action to cut emissions ahead of Asia-Pacific summit in Beijing

Beijing is hosting a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation over the coming days (Pic: Flickr/Konrad)

Beijing is hosting a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation over the coming days
(Pic: Flickr/Konrad)

By Megan Darby

Climate change is a high priority for the United States at a Pacific economies summit coming up in Beijing, John Kerry has indicated.

The secretary of state outlined his position on relations with China, in particular, ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings.

The two countries are responsible for some 45% of world emissions and must work together to bring them down, he stressed.

“Even if every single American biked to work or carpooled to school or used only solar panels to power their homes – if we reduced our emissions to zero, if we planted each of us in America a dozen trees, if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, guess what?

“That still wouldn’t be enough to counteract the carbon pollution coming from China and the rest of the world. And the same would be true for China if they reduced everything and we continued.”

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Speaking at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Kerry talked up the importance of economic cooperation between the two countries.

There is nearly US$600 billion of trade between the US and China each year, he said.

But he added: “Our aligned interests are more than just economic and cooperation is more than just commercial…

“Our shared efforts to respond to the global threat of climate change are a perfect example.”

The meeting comes hot on the heels of the latest UN climate science report. It brought together more than 30,000 scientific papers on the cause, effects and possible solutions to climate change.

“The science could not be clearer,” said Kerry. “Our planet is warming and it is warming due to our actions, human input.

“And the damage is already visible, and it is visible at a faster and greater rate than scientists predicted.”

Economic opportunity

Addressing climate change brings “one of the greatest economic opportunities in history,” he added, while investment in the clean energy market will reach US$17 trillion by 2035 and create “millions of jobs”.

“With a few smart choices, together we can ensure that clean energy is the most attractive investment in the global energy sector and that entrepreneurs around the world can prosper as they help us innovate our way out of this mess and towards a healthier planet.”

Officials from Apec’s 21 member states arrived in a smog-choked Beijing today for the first of seven days of meetings.

The city’s authorities have imposed restrictions on cars, factories and even crematoriums in a desperate bid to curb air pollution before heads of state arrive next week, the Guardian reported.

US president Barack Obama will be there for the summit and bilateral meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

The US is also in the last stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal with 11 countries.

If completed, the deal with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam will cover 40% of world trade.

Thirteen green groups have written to US trade representative Michael Froman urging him to make sure the agreement protects the environment.

They expressed “serious concerns” that conservation problems including illegal logging could be exacerbated by increased trade.

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