China, U.S. Share Priorities on Climate Change

President Clinton hosted Xi Jinping in the Oval Office in 2012 when Xi was China’s vice president.
President Clinton hosted Xi Jinping in the Oval Office in 2012 when Xi was China’s vice president.

Washington,
June 5, 2013

President Obama is preparing for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping June 7-8 as U.S. presidential advisers lay the groundwork for future agreements to advance a shared agenda.

The two nations have already identified shared priorities in their concern for climate change and the need for actions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Obama administration’s special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern.

“We believe that forceful, nationally appropriate action by the United States and China — including large-scale cooperative action — is more critical than ever,” Stern said in a statement issued in Beijing June 3. Stern had meetings with Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua of the National Development and Reform Commission, who oversees energy policies.

China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, issued a joint statement on climate change in April and established a working group to advance cooperation on technology, research, conservation, and alternative and renewable energy. Stern was in Beijing as chairman of that group, which seeks “to identify concrete, pragmatic actions that our two countries can take together to reduce our emissions in various sectors.”

In the fifth year of the Obama administration, Stern also cited a number of steps taken in several arenas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to planetary warming trends. Those actions include:

• New fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.

• Development of clean energy technologies.

• A twofold increase in renewable energy generation.

• Wider application of energy efficiency standards.

The U.S. Department of Energy presented evidence of U.S. efficiency gains in late May with the release of a progress report on the Better Buildings Challenge (BBC). More than 100 partners in the initiative have adopted better practices in 7,700 facilities, for an overall 2.5 percent increase in efficiency. The BBC partners are working to increase efficiency by 20 percent by the year 2020 in public and commercial buildings, one of the nation’s most energy-intense sectors.

Stern said the Beijing discussions “hold promise for reducing emissions in various segments of our economies.” He said the working group will continue to work “to prepare the new initiatives.” The group is on a deadline to present new ideas at a Strategic and Economic Dialogue to be held in Washington in July.

The United States and China established the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in 2009 as a platform to create a positive and cooperative relationship between these two major nations that have so much influence on global economic and environmental issues.

The June 7-8 California meeting will be the first between Obama and Xi since Xi became China’s president. The two had a White House meeting in 2012 when Xi traveled to the United States, serving as vice-president at that time. The two leaders have spoken on the telephone since Xi took office.