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