by Suzanne Goldenberg
The Obama administration said yesterday that it was pursuing a joint US-Chinese deal on action against global warming to help push the rest of the world towards a global agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Todd Stern, the US climate change envoy, said a deal between the two countries – the world's largest polluters – would boost efforts to secure a crucial accord to avoid dangerous climate change. Those UN talks are just six months away.
"China may not be the alpha and omega of the international negotiations, but it is close," Stern said in a speech to the Centre for American Progress, a liberal thinktank. "No deal will be possible if we don't find a way forward with China."
Stern's remarks represent the clearest acknowledgement yet that the Obama administration has taken on board a blueprint for US-Chinese action to address global warming. The plan is the product of secret back-channel negotiations between US and Chinese officials that were revealed in the Guardian last month.
Stern, who leaves for China on Saturday, will be accompanied by two experts who were involved in those back-channel efforts, and are now officials in the Obama administration. Obama's science adviser, John Holdren, visited China last year and David Sandalow, now an energy department official, produced a report advocating partnership with China.
Stern said the US was also seeking deals with other major economies such as India, Indonesia and Brazil.
The envoy made no suggestion that the US would seek a commitment from China to put a firm limit on its greenhouse gas emissions. That strategy, which could prove politically unpopular at home,appears modelled on the back channel talks which sought to build goodwill with China by finding potential areas of collaboration.
Instead of negotiations about caps, Stern's comments suggest he sees that the key components of a deal with China involving technical co-operation. He said that would include collaboration in developing new technologies for industrial efficiency, expanding the use of solar power and– perhaps most importantly from the Chinese point of view – developing techniques for carbon capture and storage. That would enable China to clean up its many coal-powered energy plants.
He also said there was scope for joint effort on improving building efficiency and developing electric vehicles, where the Chinese have made a big push.
China's official position still demands from the US a 40% cut in emissions by 2020, far deeper than anything being currently considered.
Stern played down prospects of reaching a deal this week. "I do not expect to have a big agreement to wave around at the end of the trip, but this trip is one piece of what is going to be an extended interaction with the Chinese," Stern said. "The vision we have is of a clean energy and climate partnership bilaterally with the Chinese."
This piece originally appeared in The Guardian.
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Kevin Dooley.
I think that picture SHOWS why China needs their wind player $APWR to make some inroads into producing more wind power! GE , Vestas salivating over future wind power sales!
I'm glad goverments are starting to step up to protect our environment. I think it is fantastic how we are using renewable energy and going green in so many ways. I think we also need to do things like reducing our energy usage, like installing geothermal heat pumps to replace high energy heating and cooling systems.