The China-US Climate Duet

BEIJING – Without active collaboration between the United States and China, not only will the odds for successful negotiations in Copenhagen this December to secure a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol be diminished, but it will be unlikely that any meaningful remedy will be found in time to arrest rising global temperatures. Yet talks between the US and China on climate change currently present two contrasting scenarios, one hopeful, the other discouraging.

In the first scenario, the two countries’ senior delegations remain deadlocked, with their polarized stances frozen in place. Moreover, the failure of developed countries – particularly, the US – to take responsibility for their historical emissions of greenhouse gases continues, representing a major sticking point because these emissions far surpass those of the developing world.

In the second scenario, billions of dollars in “green” stimulus packages trigger a global race that leads to new energy technologies and their deployment. The US becomes focused on leading in six key clean-tech areas: building efficiency, battery technology, solar, carbon capture and storage (CCS), smart grids, and electric vehicles (EV).

These efforts are mirrored by Chinese initiatives in such fields as new low-energy vehicles; light-emitting diode (LED) lighting; building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV); innovative energy efficiency technologies; and various alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, bio-gas, and synthetic fuels. Both countries express a determination to find collaborative ways to restructure their energy mixes with new, low-carbon energy technologies.