U.S. and China Forge Climate, Clean Energy Partnership

BEIJING, China, November 17, 2009 (ENS) – Today, President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao announced a far-reaching package of measures to strengthen cooperation between the United States and China on climate change and clean energy.

During President Obama’s first state visit to China, the two leaders said at a joint news conference that the two sides are “committed to working together and with other countries in the weeks ahead for a successful outcome at Copenhagen.”

There, from December 7 through 18, governments will attempt to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that are increasingly warming the climate. Whatever agreement they reach is expected to take effect when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of 2012.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the APEC meeting. (Photo courtesy APEC)

But the meaning of what a “successful outcome” is shifted over the weekend.

Heads of state gathered in Singapore for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, APEC, said that the UN climate conference might yield only a political agreement rather than a legally binding treaty, which could be put off to an undetermined time in the future.

President Obama and other Asia-Pacific leaders appear to have backed the two-step strategy proposed by Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who will host of the UN climate conference in December.

“Even if we may not hammer out the last dots of a legally binding instrument, I do believe a political binding agreement with specific commitment to mitigation and finance provides a strong basis for immediate action in the years to come,” Rasmussen said.

Still, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who chaired the APEC meeting, said it was not an occasion for negotiating climate change. “Negotiations and the formal commitments will be done in the UN process,” he said Sunday.

Lee said, “We are leading up to Copenhagen and I am sure the countries will be reserving some of their cards and particularly the bottom cards to be shown at the right moment. So I do not think they have shown their final position yet.”

Presidents Barack Obama, left, and Hu Jintao share a smile in the conference room. (Photo courtesy Office of President Hu)

In Beijing today, Presidents Hu and Obama did not show their final positions and declared no numerical emissions targets.

They said that “while striving for final legal agreement, an agreed outcome at Copenhagen should, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, include emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries.”

The Copenhagen outcome “should also substantially scale up financial assistance to developing countries; promote technology development, dissemination and transfer; pay particular attention to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change; promote steps to preserve and enhance forests; and provide for full transparency with respect to the implementation of mitigation measures and provision of financial, technology and capacity building support,” the two presidents said.

Meanwhile, on Monday, about 40 environment ministers gathered in Copenhagen in a two-day attempt to rescue a legally binding climate treaty.

The ministers, including representatives from the world’s two top greenhouse gas emitters China and the United States, heard a message from UN chief Ban Ki-moon on what an acceptable deal at Copenhagen would entail.

“A comprehensive outcome,” Ban said through a spokesman, “should ensure enhanced action to help the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt; ambitious emission reduction targets for industrialized countries; nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries with the necessary support; significantly scaled-up financial and technological resources; and an equitable governance structure,” a statement quite similar to that issued today in Beijing by the U.S. and Chinese presidents.

After their meeting in Beijing, Presidents Hu and Obama agreed that the transition to a green and low-carbon economy is “essential” and that the clean energy industry will provide vast opportunities for citizens of both countries in the years ahead.

They welcomed “significant steps forward to advance policy dialogue and practical cooperation on climate change, energy and the environment,” building on a previous agreement reached in July.

The Chinese officials, left, and the American officials at the negotiating table, with Presidents Hu Jintao and Barack Obama in the foreground. (Photo courtesy office of President Hu)

Then, the two presidents announced the six initial elements of their new cooperative clean energy relationship.

First is the establishment of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center to facilitate joint research and development of clean energy technologies by teams of scientists and engineers from both countries, and to serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country.

The Center will be supported by public and private funding of at least $150 million over five years, split evenly between the two countries.

Initial research priorities will be building energy efficiency, clean coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles.

Next, the two presidents announced the launch of the U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative. Building on the first U.S.-China Electric Vehicle Forum in September, this initiative will include joint standards development, demonstration projects in more than a dozen cities, technical roadmapping and public education projects.

The two leaders emphasized their countries’ strong shared interest in accelerating the deployment of electric vehicles to reduce oil dependence, cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote economic growth.

Third, the two presidents announced the launch of a new U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Action Plan under which the two countries will work together to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, industrial facilities, and consumer appliances.

U.S. and Chinese officials will work together and with the private sector to develop energy efficient building codes and rating systems, benchmark industrial energy efficiency, train building inspectors and energy efficiency auditors for industrial facilities, harmonize test procedures and performance metrics for energy efficient consumer products, exchange best practices in energy efficient labeling systems, and convene a new U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Forum to be held annually, rotating between the two countries.

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Chinese President Hu Jintao announce their climate and clean energy partnership. (Photo courtesy Office of President Hu)

Then the two presidents announced the launch of a new U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership that will develop roadmaps for wide-spread renewable energy deployment in both countries. A new Advanced Grid Working Group will bring together U.S. and Chinese policymakers, regulators, industry leaders, and civil society to develop strategies for grid modernization in both countries. A new U.S.-China Renewable Energy Forum will be held annually, rotating between the two countries.

The two presidents pledged to promote cooperation on cleaner uses of coal, including large-scale carbon capture and storage demonstration projects. Through the new U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, the two countries are launching a program of technical cooperation to bring teams of U.S. and Chinese scientists and engineers together in developing clean coal and CCS technologies.

The presidents welcomed several new developments:

  • a grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to the China Power Engineering and Consulting Group Corporation to support a feasibility study for an integrated gasification combined cycle, IGCC, power plant in China using American technology
  • an agreement by Missouri-based Peabody Energy to invest participate in GreenGen, a project of several major Chinese energy companies to develop a near-zero emissions coal-fired power plant
  • an agreement between General Electric and Shenhua Corporation to collaborate on the development and deployment of IGCC and other clean coal technologies
  • an agreement between the global power company AES and Songzao Coal and Electric Company to use methane captured from a coal mine in Chongqing, China, to generate electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The two presidents announced the launch of a new U.S.-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative. The U.S. and China will use experience gained in the United States to assess China’s shale gas potential, promote environmentally-sustainable development of shale gas resources, conduct joint technical studies to accelerate development of shale gas resources in China, and promote shale gas investment in China through the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum, study tours, and workshops.

Finally, the two presidents announced the establishment of the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program to leverage private sector resources for clean energy project development work in China. Twenty-two companies are founding members of the program, which will include collaborative projects on renewable energy, smart grid, clean transportation, green building, clean coal, combined heat and power, and energy efficiency.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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