China,U.S. must "seize the day" in climate change battle 2009-08-10 09:36:08   Print

    BEIJING, Aug. 10 -- China and the United States must now cooperate like never before to slow the pace of climate change, experts say.

    Indeed, China and the U.S. need to reach an agreement in December at the Copenhagen climate talks on how to slow greenhouse gas emissions and transition to low-carbon sources of energy, some experts said.

    Given China's basic conditions and the international norms, the Chinese government has always insisted on the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" established by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    "China and the United States are different in their stages of development, national conditions and historic footprints, so I think they should shoulder different responsibilities in tackling climate change," said Zhang Guobao, president of China's National Energy Administration.

    Despite those differences, the two nations signed an agreement at the recent U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue calling for deeper ties on clean-energy technology. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the accord and said it would serve as the foundation for a new global treaty.

    "We cannot ignore that the atmosphere was positive and there's a willingness to take this discussion to the next level," said Julian Wong, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, a Washington DC think tank. That means hammering out a decisive plan of action, Wong said.


    Rodger Baker, director of East Asia analysis at Stratfor, a global intelligence company, said the two sides will have to make some sort of compromise.

    That, he said, may include allocating funds and technology for carbon capture - an approach to reducing global warming by capturing carbon dioxide from large sources such as power plants.

    U.S. Democratic Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised China's investment in alternative energy, which is second only to green-minded Germany.

    Kerry said last month that China "must not emulate our energy past" by overlooking the environment in favor of industrial development.

    China has a right to develop its economy "but we ask that they do so in a way that does not represent the mistakes that the US has made in the past," Kerry said.

    Meanwhile, Kerry said, the U.S. must pass new climate legislation at home. It remains unknown whether Congress will pass a bill by December but Kerry said "we will keep working until we have the votes."

    "I don't think a global deal is impossible without (U.S. domestic) legislation," Wong said. "But if there is no vote (before December) it could send a negative message to the world."


    Wong thought sharing technology was crucial to slowing climate change. Indeed, China is calling for more technology transfers from the U.S., something Kerry said Washington would work toward achieving.

    "If the U.S. is willing to engage fully with China in bilateral cooperation or joint research and development, it will mean a transfer of technological assistance," he said.

    Last month's launch of a joint research project to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles and buildings may be a precursor for future efforts, he said.

    In spite of a modest 15 million U.S.dollars budget, the effort is an important symbolic gesture, Wong said. "It's a first step, but a lot more needs to happen. Those ideas in joint research need to be fleshed out and they need to decide how they will develop jointly," he said. "The world will be looking for more announcements along these lines."

    Baker agreed there was much room for cooperation in the private sector. "Lots of companies want to get the jump on green technology and products and whoever can do this can get a competitive advantage," he said.

    Joint ventures could occur in areas such as batteries for electric vehicles, for example. Later the Chinese might sell products such as energy-efficient light bulbs on the international market. Foreign firms will also want to bring those types of products to the Chinese market, which could lead to joint ventures, he said.

    Whatever happens, Kerry said, the two nations must act quickly. "We don't have much time," Kerry said while quoting Chairman Mao Zedong. The U.S. and China, he said, must "seize the day, seize the hour."

    (Source: Shanghai Daily)    

Editor: Pan Yanan
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