Report: US, China Must Improve Climate Cooperation

Thursday, July 23rd 2009, 9:06 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States and China should use high-level meetings next week to work toward improved cooperation in curbing greenhouse gases, according to a new Senate report.

The Foreign Relations Committee report released Thursday says new efforts to address emissions by the United States and China, the world's largest emitters of climate-altering pollution, could be "the key to a global solution" to climate change.

The report urges the countries to make climate change a priority. It also warns that winning a climate change policy agreement with fixed commitments from China will "prove extraordinarily difficult."

"The stakes are high," Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chairman of the committee, said in the report. "We must jointly tackle one of the most important and complex global issues: the threat of catastrophic climate change."

While the Senate is pressing for cooperation, the House has taken a more confrontational approach by placing trade tariffs in a House-passed bill to limit heat-trapping pollution. The tariffs would impose a "border adjustment" in 2020 on goods from countries that do not limit the gases linked to global warming. Critics say that could undermine U.S. efforts to persuade developing countries to enter into a new global warming treaty.

It is unclear whether similar provisions will be in a version of the bill the Senate is working on; the House and Senate versions eventually will have to be reconciled.

China and the United States account for 40 percent of worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas. Both countries, the report says, recognize the need for cooperation.

"However, neither has yet been willing to take the dramatic actions that many experts deem necessary to achieve critical mass for a global effort," the report says. "Many in the United States frankly doubt China's commitment to reduce emissions."

The report said "the absence of specific emissions reduction commitments from China has stoked fears of an unfair economic advantage for China, a hobbled U.S. economy and an insufficient response to the threat of global climate change."

The environment will be among the topics when senior officials meet Monday and Tuesday in Washington for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, high-level talks meant to govern ties between the countries.

It is a complicated relationship. The United States regularly criticizes China's treatment of its citizens and its trade and fiscal policies. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before, recognizes that it needs China's help to solve many tough diplomatic and economic crises.

Beijing, meanwhile, is Washington's biggest foreign creditor, with $801.5 billion invested in Treasury securities. Chinese officials worry that massive U.S. stimulus spending and a rapid expansion of credit might spark inflation that would erode the value of the dollar and China's holdings.

The Senate report recommends three areas where the countries could cooperate:

--A joint laboratory for its scientists to collaborate.

--Green projects to test solar power and other technologies.

--A "clean energy corps" trained to focus on designing energy-efficient policies and monitoring and enforcing standards.