Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Energy & Climate Focus Of U.S.-China Dialogue Meeting

Jul 28: President Barack Obama addressed the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington on Monday, July 27. The President laid out a framework of his vision for yet another critical aspect of American foreign policy -- the U.S. relationship with China, which he called "as important as any bilateral relationship in the world." The President identified President Nixon’s visit as a pivotal moment, he described how the Cold War era had limited the relationship between the two countries to a narrow set of issues, but that it was now time to seek cooperation on mutual interests on a much broader scale.

Following a discussion of the importance of U.S.-Climate relations on critical economic issues, the President listed the number two priority issue as energy and climate change. He said, "Second, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interest in a clean, secure, and prosperous energy future. The United States and China are the two largest consumers of energy in the world. We are also the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Let's be frank: Neither of us profits from a growing dependence on foreign oil, nor can we spare our people from the ravages of climate change unless we cooperate. Common sense calls upon us to act in concert.

"Both of our countries are taking steps to transform our energy economies. Together we can chart a low carbon recovery; we can expand joint efforts at research and development to promote the clean and efficient use of energy; and we can work together to forge a global response at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and beyond. And the best way to foster the innovation that can increase our security and prosperity is to keep our markets open to new ideas, new exchanges, and new sources of energy."

President Obama said, "Let us be honest: We know that some are wary of the future. Some in China think that America will try to contain China's ambitions; some in America think that there is something to fear in a rising China. I take a different view. And I believe President Hu takes a different view, as well. I believe in a future where China is a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations; a future when our nations are partners out of necessity, but also out of opportunity. This future is not fixed, but it is a destination that can be reached if we pursue a sustained dialogue like the one that you will commence today, and act on what we hear and what we learn. . ."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also commented on energy and climate change and her opening comments. She said, "As the world’s two biggest emitters, we must demonstrate to the developed and developing world that clean energy and economic growth can go hand-in-hand. We are already involved in promising partnerships. In Beijing, I toured a geo-thermal plant that is a true U.S.-Chinese collaboration. General Electric has provided high-tech equipment to produce heat and power with half the emissions, and far less water usage than the coal plants that are typically relied on. And Chinese businesses build the steam turbines that help to power the plant. This plant saves costs and provides clean energy -- including heat for the U.S. Embassy."

In a State Department briefing on the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change Issues described further details of subsequent meetings where there was substantial focus on climate change and clean energy. He said in a plenary session, Secretary Chu gave compelling PowerPoint presentation that focused both on the science and technology aspects of climate change. On the Chinese side, two vice premiers from the NDRC -- Vice Premier Zhang Guobao spoke on energy issues and Vice Premier Xie Zhenhua talked about the substantial steps that China is taking to limit CO2 emissions.

Following the plenary session, there was a special session on climate change, and the conversation between the two sides continued. On the U.S. side, John Holdren spoke on what the science is telling us -- noted the scientific view that temperature increase ought to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial times, and talked about the impacts of climate change. Carol Browner described the Obama Administration’s domestic efforts on clean energy and climate change, and Stern talked about the state of U.S.-China cooperation and efforts on the international front. Mr. Xie spoke again for China, as did Mr. Zhang, and also Madame Ye. She spoke on forest efforts in China.

Overall, Stern said, "I think it was a quite constructive day, which, of course, had the unusual feature of bringing together many cabinet and sub-cabinet level officials on each side in a way that allowed them to hear the perspectives from the other. I think the level and the breadth of Chinese and U.S. participation highlighted the importance of the issue to both countries and the degree to which climate and clean energy are becoming increasingly seen as interrelated to both economic and national security issues facing both countries."

Today (July 28) the U.S. and China signed the U.S.-China Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation in Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment. Secretary Clinton said, "This memorandum builds on past efforts, including the Ten Year Framework for Energy Environment Cooperation, and highlights the importance of climate change in our bilateral relationship by creating a platform for climate policy dialogue and cooperation. 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. During the last two days, we’ve had extensive discussions at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue about what the United States and China are doing to reduce emissions, how we can move forward in advance of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen this December, and the steps we intend to take to promote sustainable low-carbon economic growth."

July 29, 2009: Update: Access the full text of the U.S.-China Memorandum of Understanding (click here). Access a summary and links to documents from the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (click here).

Access an overview of the President's remarks and link to a video and the full text (click here). Access Secretary Clinton's comments (click here). Access the full text of the State Department briefing (click here). Access the full text of the memo signing ceremony (click here). Access the State Department China website for links to more information (click here). Access the China Daily coverage of the Dialogue meetings (click here).