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U.S. Pledges Climate Change Cooperation with China and Japan

Tom Schueneman's picture

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  • Apr 16, 2013 11:00 pm GMT

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John Kerry signs pledge for climate cooperation with Japan and China. International progress is possible outside the UN climate negotiating processJohn Kerry made climate change a centerpiece of his first Asia tour as Secretary of State over the weekend, signing agreements with both Japan and China for cooperation in implementing practical measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The agreements with both nations stressed practical measures available for reducing greenhouse gases, largely ignoring the contentious United Nations process for hammering out an international climate change agreement that has to date fallen far short of its goal.

China and the United States represent the two largest carbon emitting nations and analysts have said the agreement between the two nations could mark a significant move forward and put China and the US at the “center of serious clean energy work.”

“China and the United States represent the world’s two biggest economies, we represent the world’s two largest consumers of energy, and we represent the two largest emitters of global greenhouse gases,” said Kerry in a statement. “So if any two nations come to this table with an imperative for action, it is us.

What the United States and China decide to do with respect to this, whatever energy initiative we embrace together … the two largest economies in the world will send a signal to the world about how serious we are about this,” he said.

Encouraging sign for climate action

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, expressed cautious optimism over the weekend, saying the new agreement “raises expectations that both the United States and China will move forcefully to confront the threats of climate change,” adding that the “proof will be in the pudding” over what happens next.

The next step comes at a high-level meeting in July of the Strategic and Economic Dialog, where climate change will be high on the agenda. At the meeting US Special Envy for Climate Change Tod Stern will lead the climate change working group alongside his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission. The two leaders  are charged with “identifying new areas for concrete, cooperative action to foster green and low-carbon economic growth, including through the use of public-private partnerships, where appropriate.”

China and the US released a joint statement referring to the unique position of climate leadership held by the two nations:

“The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China recognise that the increasing dangers presented by climate change measured against the inadequacy of the global response requires a more focused and urgent initiative.”

In a similar fashion, Japan and the US have agreed to new bilateral talks exploring a “range of climate issues.”

Treaty? We dont’ need no stinkin’ treaty

Underscoring the need for international climate cooperation beyond the formal ongoing negotiations within the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Climate Policy Initiative released a report today called The Policy Climate. The report gives an overview of global policy issues relevant to global warming, asserting that “implementation of policy relevant to climate change, and its impact, accelerated markedly over the last decade, despite the slow pace of international climate change negotiations.”   

Perhaps the new pledges Secretary of State Kerry signed with Japan and China will continue to push forward international climate cooperation, even without an international treaty through the UNFCCC.

The proof is in the pudding.

Image credit:, courtesy flickr

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John Miller's picture
John Miller on Apr 16, 2013

In 2007 China’s carbon emission surpassed the U.S. and has grown at record rates ever since.  Over the past five years U.S. carbon emissions declined by 12%, while China carbon emissions increased by over 40%.  The increase in China’s carbon emissions has been due to an enormous growth in coal consumption (source of about 80% of their total emissions).  To contrast, the largest source of reduced U.S. carbon emissions has been a substantial decline in coal consumption.  The skeptics of the recently signed U.S.-China climate change cooperative agreement might believe “the proof is in the pudding”.   A more accurate review-statement would be: “the proof is in the coal consumption”.

I K's picture
I K on Apr 17, 2013

What options does China have?

She is going from abject poverty to something more acceptable. The only source of energy she had and the technical know how to implement wad coal and hydro

Going forward she needs to add about 500TWh to electricity production annually. Nothing but domestic coal can realistically meet that demand. Maybe in 10 to 20 years wind solar or renewables will take away some coal production but there is a lot of exponential coal and gas use increases to come before any change takes place, if it happens at all

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Apr 17, 2013

IK, availability of affordable energy supply for all developing countries is the primary problem statement for controlling world carbon emissions and climate change.  Re. a recent post: Can Developed Countries Reduce Future Total World Carbon Emissions?   Based on Developed countries’ recent experience in growing wind, solar and renewables, the real question may be as you state: “If it happens at all”.

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