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U.S., China And Climate Change

U.S., China And Climate Change
U.S., China And Climate Change

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United States Special Envoy for Climate Change Issues Todd Stern told senior visiting Chinese government officials that under the administration of President Barack Obama, climate change has "risen to the top of the U.S. national security set of priorities."

Speaking in a teleconference with U.S. officials July 27, after the first day of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Special Envoy Stern said that "this issue is of high importance to the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Energy" and other Obama administration officials.

Mr. Stern said he believes the Chinese see climate change as an issue of significant importance, not only "as a substantive matter, but also of real importance in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship, and increasingly something that's going to be important for. . .the way they are perceived by the rest of the world."

On Tuesday [July 28th] of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the two countries finalized a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, on climate change, energy, and the environment, providing a new platform for enhanced bilateral cooperation in these areas. It signals both countries' commitment to take aggressive action to address climate change. The M-O-U establishes an ongoing climate policy dialogue and expands cooperation in key areas including energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart grid technologies, electric vehicles, and carbon capture and sequestration.

Looking ahead to the climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, Special Envoy Stern acknowledged that developing nations such as China and India have "different" perspectives from that of the United States. Despite these differences, he predicted that a climate change agreement will be reached.

All major countries need to significantly reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. "In the case of developed countries, that's a reduction," said Mr. Stern, "in an absolute sense, against the baseline." In the case of developing countries, he said, "That's a reduction against their so-called business-as-usual path," which amounts to a substantial reduction in emissions. Reducing emissions, said Mr. Stern, is only one element of the effort to combat climate change, but is "probably the heart of it."

Officials from the U.S. and the Peoples Republic of China have held a number of constructive talks on the climate change issue since President Obama took office in January. On March 16, Special Envoy Stern met with Xie Zhenhua, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission to prepare for climate change negotiations scheduled to take place at the December conference in Copenhagen. Progress has been made but much more effort is needed.

The world's two largest economies, the United States and China, must work together to deal with the worldwide threat of climate change.