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Posted on on July 29th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S., China sign memorandum on climate change – World’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases sign pact that promises more co-operation but fails to set firm goals.

by Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON — by Sue Pleming of Reuters. Tuesday, Jul. 28, 2009.
The United States and China, the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, signed an agreement on Tuesday that promises more co-operation on climate change, energy and the environment.

Chinese and U.S. officials signed the memorandum of understanding at the State Department following two days of high-level economic and strategic talks.

The document was not released publicly but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it highlighted the importance of climate change in U.S.-Chinese relations.

“It also provides our countries with direction as we work together to support international climate negotiations and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy,” said Ms. Clinton at the signing ceremony.

She said the sides discussed in detail how to cut emissions ahead of a U.N. conference in Copenhagen in December that aims to set new global goals on controlling climate change.

Pressed on the contents of the agreement, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said it did not set firm goals but rather provided a “framework.”

“It is not an agreement per se for each side to commit themselves to some particular target. It sets a structure for dialogue,” he said.

The memorandum also envisaged more co-operation in energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart grid technologies, electric cars, carbon capture and research and development, Mr. Kelly said.

Some in the United States argue Washington should not agree to specific reductions in industrial emissions, which could boost energy prices, until China also agrees.

But others say China already has taken more concrete steps than the United States, which must show, in the run-up to the Copenhagen meeting, it is serious about reducing emissions.

Chinese state counsellor Dai Bingguo said both countries faced severe challenges posed by climate change and Beijing was committed to co-operating with Washington.

“We all need to take a strategic and long-term view of China-U.S. dialogue and co-operation in these areas,” he said.

“Our two countries have an important contribution to make to the global efforts to tackle climate change, to ensure energy security and to protect the environment.”

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu praised China’s efforts but said both countries needed to do more.

“Today’s agreement … sets the stage for what I hope will be many years of co-operation,” he said.

This month, during a visit to China by Mr. Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, {who by the way – both of them – are Chinese Americans – comment} the two countries launched a $15 million joint project to create more energy-efficient buildings and cars and study the development of cleaner-burning coal.

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